Howard Beach retail and office center sold for record price

The facade of the Pan Bay Center on Cross Bay Boulevard.
Photo courtesy of Alex Catalano

It’s kind of a big deal on Cross Bay Boulevard.

The Pan Bay Center, a 50,000-square-foot commercial space in the heart of Howard Beach’s main shopping strip, was recently sold for a record-setting $27 million to Urban Edge Properties.

A publicly traded real estate investment trust, Urban Edge Properties owns 83 properties accounting for 14.8 million square feet of retail and office space in the tri-state area. The firm negotiated the deal with Pan Bay’s previous owner, A.J. Panzarella Realty Inc., over the last six months with the assistance of broker Alex Catalano of Amenity Commercial Brokerage and Appraisal Services.

Catalano stated that Urban Edge was particularly drawn to Pan Bay by its size, including a two-story building renovated in 1991 and several adjoining one-story shops. The new owners were also attracted to the center’s prime location on Cross Bay Boulevard and rear parking lot, which has nearly 100 spaces, a rare find along the Woodhaven/Cross Bay corridor through south Queens.

“With an average drive-by traffic count of nearly 50,000 vehicles per day, along with JFK Airport, Resorts World Casino, public transportation and major roadways being located within less than a 2-mile radius from the property,” he said, “the Pan Bay Center truly possesses the most important and valuable quality that you could ever wish for in a real estate investment asset: location, location, location.”

Currently, 85 percent of the Pan Bay Center is leased, with retail tenants on the ground floor — including Sugar Bun Bakery, Jamie Rose Eyewear and Collectible USA Cards & Gifts — and medical offices in the second floor of the two-story building.

Both Catalano and Urban Edge Chairman and CEO Jeff Olson hinted that the new owners would work to renovate the entire center and attract new businesses — including, potentially, national chain stores.

“This acquisition demonstrates our ability to identify and to acquire off-market assets in established, urban areas where we can add value by improving the physical offering and merchandising, by filling vacancy and by bringing rents to market,” Olson said.

“With Urban Edge as the new owners, along with some patience, what I think the neighborhood will eventually be rewarded with is a newly updated mixed-use retail and office strip that will cater to Howard Beach and the surrounding communities for generations to come,” Catalano added. “I would not be surprised to see some national tenants and popular franchises in the near future that many residents have eagerly waited for to arrive for so many years.”

Some of the business owners at the Pan Bay, however, have concerns about what the new owners will bring. One proprietor, whose name is withheld by The Courier upon request, wondered whether Urban Edge would honor the existing lease. There are also questions as to whether Urban Edge would redevelop the entire site to build retail space and “high-rise apartments.”

“We’re all waiting to see,” the proprietor said. “Small businesses here are already struggling. We’re paying Manhattan rents to be here.”

The Pan Bay Center is located in an R2 zone with a C2-2 commercial overlay, which has a maximum commercial floor area ratio of 1.0, meaning any building erected cannot exceed the lot’s total square footage at ground level. The center borders the area of New Howard Beach, which predominantly features two-story homes with spacious yards.

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