Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Homegrown Weed: The Real Dope at Gateway

In its initial public relations foray, the Related Company proclaimed that their new Gateway Mall on the gravesite of the Bronx Terminal Market would, unlike its sister Gateway Mall in East New York, be more "homegrown." At the time we speculated, half in jest, whether or not that would mean local merchants offering sancocho and goat's head to a public eager to try new things.

More and more, however, it appears that this mall will simply replicate the same dull standards that Related has exhibited in all of their Gateway incarnations. Even worse, there appears to be absolutely no effort on the part of the company to incorporate any of the indigenous merchants that have played such a crucial role in the rebuilding of the Bronx (and, at least according to BJ's 10 Q SEC filing, it also applies to Bronx wholesalers who should not look to supply the store with produce since BJ's proudly announces that they will bypass local sources of produce).

This is certainly the case with the proposed supermarket slated for the Gateway site. There are 59 local markets within the three mile trade radius yet Related didn't lift a finger to see if any of these operators were interested in coming into the mall. In fact, the developer approached one large regional chain store that is not known for its inner-city success and, unsurprisingly, the chain said "no".

Which brings us to the "homegrown" spin. If Related is allowed to grab this deal with a no-bid, low ball lease that pays the city no more than $2 a sq. ft. at maturity why can't it find a minority supermarket operator to tenant the mall? Indeed, why can't the City Council insist that they do just that?

And while they're at it, shouldn't the minority entrepreneur be given the same sweetheart lease arrangements that Related has with the city? (and not the $30 a sq. ft. that was probably offered to the regional chain). After all it's not as if Related has taken any risks in this deal that merit the windfall profits that it stands to make. Unless the Council intervenes the only thing homegrown at Gateway will be greater incidences of asthma.