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Atlas Park’s slow recovery divides workers about the future of shops

It has been four months since Macerich took over The Shops at Atlas Park, and there have been few noticeable changes on the surface at the beleaguered mall.

Many of the storefronts still remain empty, and two additional stores have even closed since the Chicago-based realty group purchased the property in a February foreclosure auction.

“It’s pretty depressing,” said one employee of a store who was not authorized to speak with the press. “Nothing has changed.”

An organic market on the first level of the mall and a wine and liquor store on the second level have closed, while a Square One Shoes has opened. But otherwise it is business as usual for the shops, the employee said.

“They need to do more,” she said, adding that she would like to see a Target or another dynamic retailer that would have mass appeal and draw foot traffic to the other businesses in the mall.

The employee lamented the loss of higher-end stores like Amish Market, which sold artisan food products, but another business manager welcomed the change, and said Macerich was working behind the scenes to turn the fate of the mall around.

“They are definitely on top of things about what to bring into the neighborhood,” said Giuseppa Mauceli, manager at Manor Oktoberfest, a German-style beer house on the second floor.

“Little by little they are bringing in stores,” she said, referring to the new shoe store. “And they have other stores in mind.”

A spokeswoman for Macerich said the company is taking time to assess which types of stores would be the best fit for the mall — to make sure once they do get new tenants, they are the right fit.

Before the mall went into foreclosure in 2009, it was run by Damon Hemmerdinger, who had a vision of the shops as a high-end retail oasis in the neighborhood. But that vision only lasted three years.

The mall sits between working class neighborhoods, according to Mauceli, which is not the target market for high-end goods. That is why she would like to see a Gap or Target come to the shops as well.

Macerich has not released any specific information about its plan for the mall, but there is no shortage of ideas from others in the community.

Mauceli would like to see an Apple store. Community officials have suggested a bowling alley or a restaurant that also houses arcade games.

But Mauceli said it has taken other steps to improve the mall’s visibility, like finally starting a Facebook page.

“This mall has been here for five years and some people don’t even know about it,” she said, but added Macerich’s advertising initiatives are a good start.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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