Coney Island strip mall?

Coney Island strip mall?
Kutnicki Bernstein Architects

The man who brought the city’s only drive-through Starbucks to Cropsey Avenue is bringing more retail to the dreary Gateway to Coney Island — and he says it might kick-start the drag’s transition into a shopping destination.

Developer Marc Esrig is building a glassy, 14,000-square-foot retail space with a parking lot on Cropsey Avenue at Hart Place, directly across the street from the Starbucks and Linens ’n Things that he developed in 2004, and down the block from a Home Depot.

Construction could be finished as early as mid-July and Esrig says he is in negotiations with three national chains as prospective tenants: a women’s clothing store, a home furnishings store, and a restaurant (which he promises will not be a McDonald’s or a Subway).

“You’re going to start seeing that natural progression where auto body shops get forced out,” said Esrig of Vista Realty Partners. “That’s not to say that Prada or Coach is moving in tomorrow, but maybe you’ll have a Dunkin’ Donuts move in, or a pizza place, or a Radio Shack.”

And as the redevelopment of Coney Island inches forward, some Coney officials are excited about Esrig’s plans to bring a clothing shop, a home furnishings store, and a restaurant to a key access road for the amusement district.

“Cropsey Avenue is becoming busy and all of those things might go over really well,” said Community Board 13 District Manager Chuck Reichenthal.

“The local diner — which was only a block away — closed down, so a restaurant sounds like a potentially good idea,” he said.

But Dick Zigun, Coney Island’s unofficial mayor, isn’t as keen about Esrig’s plans.

“In an ideal Coney Island, Cropsey Avenue between Neptune Avenue and Hart Place would see large parking garages on either side and the ground floor of such garages would be trolley barns and waiting stations for a revival of the Surf Avenue trolleys,” Zigun said.

“Such parking garages would be useful for the amusement park and also serve the unofficial shopping mall that is already replacing the auto body stores,” he said.