Mall manager Mike Mattone and the property's legal representative, Paul Millus, were formally introduced to the community at an April 22nd Glendale Civic Association meeting, where more questions were raised then answered about the struggling mall's future.
"I don't have a crystal ball," said Mattone, who fielded some questions before turning the meeting over to Millus. Mattone’s company took over management of the mall in late February. Since then, he has said his priority is to overturn the widespread perception that the upscale mall is failing to gain a foothold in Glendale.
Millus assured worried residents the mall is in sound shape, and promised its new administrators would better shape the retail center to Glendale shoppers' needs.
"This center is going to be here. At the end of the day I would like to suit the needs of the community," said Millus. "It really is a beautiful place, just as long as there's stores that you want to shop in."
Residents reminded Millus of the stores many called for when the mall was being planned; several mentioned national chains such as The Gap, Bed Bath and Beyond, and Victoria's Secrets that they believe would attract more shoppers to the mall.
"Do I have a Gap in my back pocket? No," responded Millus, who spoke frankly about the mall's future plans, though he set few timetables. Millus said he was very interested in signing an anchor store such as a Macy's to help stabilize business at the mall, but said residents should not expect one to move in immediately.
"All I can say is just stay tuned, we're working on it," Millus said of landing an anchor store. Acknowledging growing frustration that the mall has progressed slowly, Millus said his team would look to move quickly in the coming months. "I want to show demonstrable action as soon as possible," Millus said.
Addressing other concerns, including the parking issue and store vacancies, Millus said he is working to rent empty stores as fast as he can. Several have closed since the mall first opened, including some last year in response to the downward-spiraling economy.
Millus said he would consider any viable options. However, he insisted the mall should not rush to sign new tenants, but find ones that are tailor-suited to the community.
"We're going to do the best we can to fill these vacancies with stores that you want," Millus said.
Some residents argued that the type and quality of stores would not matter much unless Atlas Park offers free parking, like other malls in the area and on Long Island.
"One of the major concerns for people is paying for parking," said Dore Figliola, a member of Community Board 5. Figliola said frustrated shoppers that know they must pay or park several blocks from the mall are less eager to go there.
Millus said he is studying the parking problem by monitoring how many shoppers drive there and how long they leave their cars at the mall's garage (using the garage's automated ticket machine to keep time). Data from this study could help determine if a free parking plan is possible, said Millus.
"I'm toying with the idea of providing some free parking," said Millus. He expressed concerns that making the entire garage free would lead to people parking their cars there during the day as they head elsewhere to work, something few believe would happen.
Millus also said he does want to provide some paid parking for people who can afford it and want to pay for the service, though it is unlikely people would opt to pay for parking spots if others are free.
Vincent Arcuri, chairman of CB5, invited Millus and Mattone to consult with the community board as they plan changes at the mall. Arcuri said CB5 could prove helpful in negotiating with elected officials for any plans that might need city approval.
"These are problems, and you should address them to the community board so we can have input with the [appropriate city] agencies," Arcuri said.
Offering the mall managers some glimmer of encouragement, the president of the Glendale Civic Association, Kathy Masi, said residents would support a successful mall that caters to the community.
"I think it’s important for you to understand that as a community Glendale does want this mall to succeed," said Masi. "It’s here. It's a part of us now."