Fordham Road Developments
The vacant anchor commercial building that once housed Alexander's and Caldor at the corner of Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse has been sold and will be converted into space for retail stores and offices, the Norwood News has learned. And just a block away, renovation work has ceased at the Loew's Paradise Theater due to financial problems.
Houlihan-Parnes Realtors, joined by the Jemal family, purchased the Caldor building, vacant since May 1997, for $25 million. The massive commercial space will house retail stores on the first floor and part of the basement, according to Jim Houlihan, the building's new co- owner. The second floor will house a mix of stores or offices, or a combination of both, and the remaining three floors will be used for office space.
Since negotiations are still ongoing, Houlihan would not say what businesses are moving into the property, but he did say some well-known chain stores are in the picture.
Houlihan expects business to be robust at the site. "The location of Fordham Road and the Grand Concourse is ground zero for the access of the Bronx," he said. "... It's attractive for retail and office use because of the transportation system and because it's in the heart of the Bronx."
However, organizers with the Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, a grassroots group that often tackles housing conditions in the area, expressed some concern about the new ownership. The group says Houlihan-Parnes has a poor record in its ownership of residential buildings in the borough. In the '70s, the company was a big mortgage broker in the Bronx, but the coalition says the company often charged inflated prices and extended mortgages to irresponsible landlords, leading to poor conditions in apartment buildings.
Houlihan denied any wrongdoing. "We have continuously moved to correct violations and make capital investments wherever we can," he said.
In another recent development, restoration work at the Loew's Paradise Theater on the Grand Concourse at 183rd Street has been put on hold. The baroque-style, 4,000-seat theater was scheduled to open last September as a venue for Latin music concerts and boxing and wrestling events.
Richard DeCesare, who holds the theater's lease, reportedly has had difficulties attracting tenants to fill commercial space in the building, adjacent to the theater. But Luis Seijoo, operations manager for the theater, denied reports that DeCesare is looking for someone to buy out the lease.
"There have been some delays in the financial lending aspect," Seijoo said. "But the project is still a viable thing ... Has it experienced difficulties? Yes, of course. But as far as, is the project done? No, absolutely not."
Seijoo said about 40 percent of the restoration work needs to be completed, including the installation of the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system, and painting and decorative plaster work. Seijoo expects the theater to be completed by mid-summer.
Jose Velez, of the Bronx Overall Economic Development Corporation, and former head of an economic development group on Fordham Road, said he believes the theater's problems are not indicative of a larger trend in the Fordham shopping area. "I think things are excellent," he said. "Someone is having some bad luck but it is not a reflection of the market. Vacancy rates are at one percent now. Everybody is doing well."
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