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Kmart and Toys R Us gone, Middle Village's Rentar Plaza eyes improvements

With two empty storefronts on Metropolitan Avenue, the commercial hub looks to attract tenants with added loading docks.

For the first time in its history, the

For the first time in its history, the two retail slots in the front of Rentar Plaza in Middle Village are empty. They recently housed doomed retailers Kmart and Toys R Us. Photo Credit: Lisa L. Colangelo

The view from the top of Rentar Plaza, a three-level structure that looms large in Middle Village, is an impressive sweep of the New York City skyline.

But the view from its Metropolitan Avenue entrance is stark these days, now that the complex’s two street-level stores, Toys R Us and Kmart, are out of business.

Those prime retail spots are empty for the first time since Rentar Plaza opened in 1974.

The changing commercial landscape has the building’s owner, Vertical Industrial Park Associates, looking to make adjustments designed to attract future tenants.

The company has asked the city Department of Transportation for permission to add a curb cut and a driveway to Metropolitan Avenue. That application is being reviewed by local community leaders and the agency.

“Now that we have space available, we need additional loading docks to accommodate future tenants,” said Felice Bassin, president of Rentar Development Corp., which manages the site, in reference to an area designed to accommodate truck deliveries. “There’s just not enough loading space.”

The massive, 1.5 million square-foot Rentar Plaza is still busy, thanks to a Funtopia U.S.A  amusement center for kids, B.J.’s Wholesale Club, Raymour & Flanigan and other shops in the Metro Mall housed in the rear portion of the facility.

The site also has industrial tenants, a training academy for the city Correction Department and about 1,700 parking spots between its sprawling roof and rear lots.

The Middle Village building has always had two large retailers on the street-level floor. When it first opened, shoppers traveled from the roof parking lot to the ground floor via a unique moving walkway called a “Walk‐OLator,” which was changed later to a traditional escalator.

Initially, a Robert Hall shop occupied the larger spot, followed by Times Square Stores, Caldor and Kmart. Supermarkets, including Bohack and Waldbaums, opened in the adjacent, 45,000-square foot store. 

“Retailing has changed . . . There may not be a tenant who wants to take the entire Kmart store, which is about 145,000 square feet," Bassin said. “There may be three retailers who want to take that space, or maybe an industrial or a warehouse tenant."

City Councilman Robert Holden, who lives in Middle Village and represents the area, said he hopes at least part of the vacant space is filled by a retailer that offers food and other household goods. 

“That space is large enough to support a Target,” said Holden. “A lot of people won’t go to the one on Queens Boulevard because of the congestion. Rentar Plaza offers parking, and it’s sort of hassle-free parking.”

An event hall could also be a welcome addition, Holden said. 

“It really should be something that services the community,” said Juniper Park Civic Association President Tony Nunziato. “We want something good for the neighborhood, not a warehouse.”

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