Given the magnitude of this real estate downturn, it’s easy to forget that not every retail center that ends up in distress is a victim of bad timing. Some centers would likely be in trouble anyway because of poor site selection and misguided leasing efforts.

The Shops at Atlas Park, a 400,000 sq. ft. lifestyle center in the Glendale section of Queens, N.Y., provides a particularly heartbreaking example. By all accounts, the property is a beautiful and well-designed retail venue, featuring an elliptical park in the center of the site, white stucco buildings, lush architectural detail and a pedestrian-friendly layout.

When the developer, New York City-based ATCO Properties & Management Inc., first came up with the idea of turning a former 10-acre industrial site into a retail center, the local community couldn’t be happier.

The Shops at Atlas Park was supposed to create hundreds of new jobs and capture sales tax revenue that had long been going to nearby Nassau County. Historically, Glendale has been under-retailed, so local residents did their shopping in Nassau, which has an abundance of malls.

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