The Fresh Meadows Barnes & Noble location will be closing at the end of December this year, according to David Deason, vice president of development for Barnes & Noble.
The Barnes & Noble is part of the Utopia Center shopping complex, across from the University on the other side of Utopia Parkway. The store serves three colleges, including the University, and multiple area high schools and elementary schools.
The vacant space will be then be occupied by a T.J. Maxx, according to Isaac Massry, the Utopia Center leasing agent from the Wharton Realty Group.
The property is owned by the Wharton Realty Group, in connection with Utopia Center Acquisition, LLC, as confirmed by Massry. The site was purchased for 17.2 million in 2006, according to mortgage records accessible on Lexis Nexis.
T.J. Maxx representative Brittany Welch said in an email that the company has not made any announcements at this time with regards to a store in Utopia Center.
Deason said, “Our lease is expiring on January 31, 2015 and the store will close at the end of December. We had discussions with the property owner to try to structure a lease extension, but were not able to come to an agreement.”
“We enjoyed serving our St. John’s/Fresh Meadows area customers for the last 10 years and look forward to continuing to serve them at the nearby Bayside location.”
According to Massry, Barnes & Noble had stated options per their lease agreement but “decided not to exercise them.”
After inquiring at the Fresh Meadows Barnes & Noble location, the Torch was informed that the store manager could not comment on the subject.
A change.org petition started by Nikolas Michael of Jamaica, New York alerted the online community that the store would be closing, but did not specify a date.
Michael created the petition in order to gain support and attempt to persuade both Barnes & Noble and the owner of the shopping complex, Wharton Realty Group and Utopia Center Acquisition LLC, to come to a leasing agreement and keep the store from closing, leaving residents and students without the resource.
Michael could not be reached for comment by deadline.
St. John’s students knew about the petition, and a few signed it. They feel that they are losing a place not just for reading material, but for relaxation as well.
“I feel like too many students use that Barnes & Noble because it’s so close to the school. It’s dumb that the store is closing. People will have to go to Manhattan to get their books now,” said sophomore Keisha Barnes.
“I spend most of my free time there too, and I do a lot of my studying there. Too many people use [the location], and it will be inconvenient when they close it. Nobody reads anymore, and they wonder why,” Barnes said.
Sophomore Lahjahniek Ramdene agreed.
“It’s an outlet for students who want to get off campus and have different scenery for studying and getting books. It was definitely an outlet for people not only of St. John’s, but the surrounding community as well.”
Other students expressed their disappointment about the loss of a place to buy textbooks and materials for class.
“That Barnes & Noble saved my life when I couldn’t find two books in the school bookstore and I couldn’t find them online,” said sophomore Tiana Guzman.
However, despite the loss of a convenient bookstore, students are hopeful for a new employment opportunity.
“I think this is a wonderful opportunity for the community and St. John’s students as well. With this being a bigger retail store, it calls for a bigger staff which now creates more job opportunities,” Ramdene said. “This is good because it is hard to find employment close to school because of all the students looking for work as well as people in the surrounding areas.”