Today, though, the building, whose glittering sign features the grinning vaudevillian that is Coney Island’s unofficial mascot, is nearly full, with stores having leased six of its seven berths. The stores are a mix of seasonal and year-round retail, and the building can be expanded to six stories.
The candy chain It’Sugar, where Sour Patch Kids can be scooped for $2.99 a quarter-pound, has taken a long-term lease for a 2,000-square-foot corner space, paying $140 a square foot, according to Mr. Sitt.
The Nets Shop by Adidas, selling the N.B.A. team’s black-and-white tank tops and other basketball gear, sits at the opposite corner of the building, with a comparable rent, Mr. Sitt said. Four other tenants, some of whom have yet to move in, are renting space averaging about $15 a foot under short-term leases for the summer season. Average asking rents along Surf Avenue are about $40 a square foot, according to Coldwell Banker Reliable.
Among those seasonal leaseholders are Coney Island Convenience, stocking beach paraphernalia like inflatable toys in a 2,500-square-foot space; and Wampum, a skateboard shop that started in Bridgehampton, N.Y., in 2011.
“This place definitely has a different feel than the Hamptons,” said Marley Ficalora, a Wampum partner, who said he had never visited Coney Island until last winter. “But we think it is really turning around, and we want to be a part of it.”
Signs of the intensive efforts that got Coney Island and other beachfront amusement areas up and running for the summer season are everywhere.
In fact, Nathan’s, the Surf Avenue hot dog landmark shuttered by the hurricane — the first time it had ever closed since it opened in 1916 — resumed serving its well-known fare on May 19.
Mr. Sitt grew up in nearby Gravesend, and the commercial building development is his first project in the area since he began snapping up properties there a decade ago. At one time he owned 12.5 acres, but sold seven acres, mostly along the boardwalk, to the city in 2009 for $95.6 million.
The same year, the city rezoned the neighborhood, reducing the size of the amusement area to 27 acres. Since then, two new amusement parks have opened: Luna Park, in 2010, and Scream Zone, in 2011, joining the existing Deno’s Wonder Wheel park. The New York City Economic Development Corporation says that visitors to the two new parks reached 2.6 million. This spring, the city cut the ribbon on Steeplechase Plaza, at the boardwalk and West 19th Street, whose centerpiece is a refurbished carousel.
Mr. Sitt said he wanted to build hotels, stores and movie theaters on his remaining parcels, which cluster near Surf Avenue, but is awaiting new sewer lines The city has pledged $130 million for sewer improvements, the economic development agency said.
Mr. Sitt suggested that the rezoning didn’t go far enough, adding that hotel operators would need zoning changes to support larger venues like halls for wedding receptions to keep business going in the off-season.
Mr. Sitt called his new building merely a placeholder, to generate revenue to cover the property’s taxes, and said the strip “needs to look aesthetically nice, even during the interim phase.”
In the meantime, the project is welcoming neighbors. A two-level Applebee’s restaurant, with an enormous fish tank, opened this week in a converted space at 1217 Surf Avenue.
The dirt lot at 1223 Surf Avenue, next to the subway station, will soon feature a 15,000-square-foot two-level building featuring several restaurants. Johnny Rockets, the burgers-and-fries chain, will take 6,000 square feet on the ground floor, said Natan Bukai, the building’s developer.
Red Mango, the frozen yogurt chain, will occupy 2,000 square feet, also on the ground, he added. Another 2,000-square foot ground-floor berth remains open, but it is being marketed in combination with a 5,000-square-foot second-floor space, which also has a large terrace.
Tenants who have been approached so far include chains like Hooters, as well as Tilted Kilt, whose waitresses wear red tartan miniskirts and matching bras; Bareburger, an organic chain, has also shown interest, said Mr. Vitacco, the commercial agent.
Three years ago, Mr. Bukai bought the parcel from Mr. Bullard for $1.4 million; he’s spending another $1 million on it.