Starbucks perks along with plans for 5th shop in Forest Hills

As high rents and food vendors encroach upon Forest Hills, another Manhattan ubiquity may not be far behind.

A developer has stirred up plans with Starbucks for a fifth shop in the zip code – and 19th in Queens – as part of a two-story complex opening next spring at 71st and Metropolitan Aves.

Barring a negotiation breakdown, the coffee giant would join a well-known bank and a real estate office on the 12,000-square-foot piece of land, formerly occupied by an auto repair shop, said developer David Koptiev.

“If we didn’t think it would do well, we wouldn’t buy the property,” Koptiev said. “It’s much easier to build in other areas.

“Here, I just wanted to see esthetic changes to the community, something that will help out.”

Koptiev expects to sign leases with Starbucks and the bank in the next three months.

They would open in March or April, below the offices of Koptiev’s Gabriel Development Group, he said.

Starbucks officials were mum about the deal but were upbeat about expanding the company’s reach into the borough.

Company spokesman Dan Lewis confirmed that another Starbucks is set to open this year in Forest Hills at Queens Blvd. and Union Turnpike.

There are now 228 Starbucks stores in the five boroughs.

Plans for the Metropolitan Ave. complex call for a small number of parking spaces in front. It also could grow to include a fourth tenant, depending on the bank’s desired size, Koptiev said.

But some residents are concerned the center would draw too much traffic to a busy stretch of Metropolitan Ave. that will soon include a Trader Joe’s and, in 2010, a campus for 1,900 students.

“That whole area is going to be inundated with traffic,” said Frank Gulluscio, district manager of Community Board 6.

Others wondered why Koptiev never presented his plan at public meetings.

“It’s just a question of everyone blending into the community and getting along,” said Lynn Schulman, 49, of Forest Hills.

Despite the community outcry, Koptiev faces few obstacles.

Kate Lindquist, a spokeswoman for the Buildings Department, said there are no active stop-work orders for the site.

Workers are clearing dirt as they prepare to lay the foundation, Koptiev said.

Asked about residents’ concerns, Koptiev politely replied: “Maybe we should make a poll. What would you rather see – a nice shopping center or an empty hole?”

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