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Ratner’s ‘Terminal’ opens to huge crowd

The Brooklyn Paper

A bit of suburbia has come to downtown and Brooklynites can’t seem to get enough of it.

When Atlantic Terminal swung open its doors last Sunday, there was hardly any room to move. Shoppers flocked to the four-story 192,000-square-foot shopping mall armed with cash and credit cards, and either loads of patience — to brave the crowds and elbow their way into the new stores — or years of shopping savvy.

The opening day “carnival,” as it was billed by developer Forest City Ratner, with free hot dogs, popcorn and pretzels, as well as clowns and face painting, may have attracted some, but many others came to shop.

So many came to shop, in fact, that the Target department store, anchor tenant of the mall, quickly became that company’s highest grossing store in the country — a position it has held in the several days since the store opened(except on Tuesday when rain kept shoppers away and the store dipped to number three in the nation).

In order to keep up with the pace of shoppers, Target will hire 100 more employees to aid its current staff of 450, said the store’s manager.

“It has exceeded even our own expectations,” said manager Marcus Lewis.

On Thursday afternoon, Elizabeth Magnum, of Prospect Heights, who was babysitting for Chloe, 3, and Oliver,1, was out for a stroll through the Target aisles.

“I love it,” said Magnum, explaining that she had plenty of room to maneuver the doublewide stroller through the store.

Despite the general enthusiasm for the mall, opponents of the $2.5 billion Atlantic Yards development, proposed to be built across the street from the mall by Forest City Ratner principal Bruce Ratner, took to the streets on the mall’s opening day.

“We were not there to protest the mall, we were there to inform the public about his other project,” said Daniel Goldstein, a spokesman for Develop-Don’t Destroy Brooklyn, referring to Ratner.

The real estate mogul secured $114 million in Liberty Bonds, intended for the redevelopment of Lower Manhattan after 9-11, to build the Bank of New York office building and the attached $150 million mall. That covered nearly half of the $240 million development.

He now seeks to build a 19,000-seat arena, residential and commercial development on 23 acres emanating from the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic avenues and extending over to Vanderbilt Avenue in Prospect Heights.

Critics of the plan, carrying anti-arena placards, said the new mall has already clogged local streets with traffic and they fear what will happen if the Atlantic Yards plan, including three soaring commercial towers and 13 residential buildings, is built.

Indeed, on Sunday, traffic on Atlantic Avenue was backed up all the way to Court Street for much of the day.. Parking for 650 cars is available in Ratner’s much-maligned Atlantic Center mall, across the street from Atlantic Terminal, but a Forest City Ratner spokeswoman declined to comment on how full the parking lot has been since the new mall opened.

A pedestrian bridge connects the two malls through Target. Shopping carts from Target cannot by taken across the bridge to the parking garage or out into the mall.

Meanwhile, on the mall’s third floor, a Chuck E. Cheese’s pizzeria-video arcade has been attracting a steady stream of customers and has already played host to more than 20 birthday parties, according to manager Tonya Mills.

The restaurant is the chain’s only current Brooklyn outlet — they operated one in the former Caesar’s Bay Bazaar at Bay Parkway in the 1980s.

DSW shoe warehouse, Bath & Body Works, Daffy’s clothing, McDonald’s, Rockaway Bedding and GameStop also opened in the mall this week.

Other stores and offices opening in the near future include Starbucks (in addition to a small Starbucks inside Target), Avenue, Mandee, The Children’s Place, Coldstone Creamery, Payless ShoeSource, Verizon Wireless, Houlihan’s, Guitar Center, Men’s Wearhouse, Mrs. Fields/TCBY and Atlantic Terminal Dental.

The Atlantic Terminal mall sits atop the convergence of 10 subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road at the Atlantic Avenue hub.

Bill Baird, a retired architect from Brighton Beach, stopped to visit the mall on Thursday on his way to catch the LIRR out to Long Island.

Staring up at the historic Brooklyn Sanborn maps printed on the ceiling, which detail boundaries and structures for property throughout the city, he said, “I think this is beautiful.”

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