Shopping center is a welcome sight


The site of the Ritchie Motel, a dilapidated Brooklyn Park landmark that became notorious as a hangout for prostitutes and was attacked as an eyesore by angry neighbors before it was closed in April 1991, has been transformed into a strip shopping center -- and neighbors could not be happier.

"The neighborhood is 100 percent happy, delighted and thrilled," said Arleen Hodges, president of the Olde Brooklyn Park Improvement Association.

Most of the renovations to what has become the Brooklyn Park Shopping Center are finished, with workers just adding on to tenant spaces, said Leonard Weinberg, a partner in Baltimore-based Vanguard Equities Inc. The development and management company owns about six other small, neighborhood strip-shopping centers.

The 13,000-square-foot commercial revitalization project involved partial demolition of the old motel and a complete face lift to upgrade the appearance of the remaining structure.

"We demolished almost 25 percent of the building to make room for better parking on the site," Mr. Weinberg said.

Mr. Weinberg said he and his partner, Brad Glaser, bought the building in February from Lara, Fred and Henry Greenberg. He would not say how much they paid for the building, but said rents average $10-$12 a square foot, with some slots as small as 600 square feet or as large as 2,500 square feet.

"We liked the building on Ritchie Highway and we thought we could fix it up, lease it out and make some money," Mr. Weinberg said.

"It was in terrible shape and had been abused and misused for a number of years."

The partners began renovating the site in mid-March. Everything should be completed in early January, he said.

The new center will house 10 tenants. So far, four have moved in. The rest are in various stages of moving in as work on their slots is completed, he said.

The tenants will include a cleaners, a Pizza Hut, a realty company and a cellular phone company.

Neighbors who remember the days when the site housed the motel, the Park Lounge and several smaller establishments, including a drug store, welcomed the change.

When the bar and motel were on the site, Mr. Hodges said, "traffic would be all up and down the street."

But the new businesses "don't generate your come and stay traffic," Ms. Hodges said.

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