Interview with the Money Man

April 9, 2008 at 7:41 am Leave a comment

The New York Observer catches up with Damon Hemmerdinger.

I was at Atlas Park a few weeks ago on a weekday. Bearing in mind that malls in general are much less crowded on weekdays than on weekends, I’m not exaggerating when I say that the place looked deserted. The presence of an upscale mall in the mold of suburban Virginia in a less-trafficked part of Queens may prove too foreign for residents in the 3.5-mile radius Hemmerdinger is targeting. If there were a store like Crate and Barrel or, ahem, a subway line that goes directly there, that would be different story altogether. In the meantime, the enticements continue, with Hemmerdinger giving away more money to anyone who will look him in the eye and free parking at the mall at least through the end of April.

Damon Hemmerdinger, the owner of the massive Glendale mall the Shops at Atlas Park (and the son of M.T.A. chairman Dale Hemmerdinger), has been running around passing out $20,000 of his own money. Why? Because the 36-year-old wants people to shop! In Queens!…

“We thought about everything. But we realized a couple of things. First, that there’s a surprising concentration of affluent house-holds in this area. Now, affluent means a lot of different things to different people. What I mean is people with income to spend on leisure time and on buying things that they don’t necessarily need.

“If you look at households earning over $100,000, there are many, many more hundred-thousand-dollar households within three and a half miles of this site than within three and a half miles of downtown Stamford, Conn. Yet, Queens has less than half of the national average of square feet of retail per person—that’s all together, from car dealerships to delis. Compared to, say, Atlanta, it’s actually about a third. There’s roughly nine and a half square feet of retail per person in Queens. Twenty is the national average. Atlanta is 28.”

Image James Hamilton, New York Observer

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