When city residents hear the word development, the first borough that comes to mind is probably Manhattan. However, that notion may be changing, and quickly, as million and billion dollar public and private development projects are sprouting up across the borough.
“Queens has experienced incredible growth in recent years,” said Robert C. Lieber, President of the New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Queens is currently in the midst of an economic boom with the borough’s annual unemployment rate falling from nearly 7.5 percent in 2003 to 4.5 percent in 2006 - which marked the lowest annual unemployment rate in the history of the borough, according to Lieber. During that same period, businesses have been flocking to the borough as the class A commercial vacancy decreased from 12 percent to 7 percent.
Although those numbers are impressive, nearly every section of the borough is either seeing or will see a major development project take place in their area within the next few years.
“This resurgence will only become stronger,” Lieber said. “In the coming years, new developments throughout the borough in Long Island City, Jamaica, Flushing and elsewhere will create thousands of affordable housing units, dozens of acres of open space, greater retail opportunities and new office space yielding an increased and more diverse mix of jobs to the area.”
Some developments have already broken ground with a few already open for business, and a number of others are scheduled to break ground within the next year.
In addition to creating a boom in the project’s area, many of the developments, including Citi Field, the new stadium for the New York Mets, and Silvercup West a $1 billion expansion of eight new soundstage studios as part of a larger two-million square foot complex, are expected to become a destination for tourists.
Although EDC acknowledged that the high number of construction projects taking place during the same time in Queens would bring inconveniences including more traffic and tougher parking, it believes the benefits of more jobs, housing and parks for the borough’s future are more than worth it.
The Queens Courier chose to highlight these nine developments that span across the entire borough to give residents a preview of the borough’s future.
After decades of talk concerning redeveloping the Willets Point area known to many as the “Iron Triangle,” city officials recently unveiled comprehensive plans that would transform the area into a dynamic mixed-use facility.
The current 60-acre site, which Mayor Michael Bloomberg described as blighted and environmentally contaminated, would undergo a transformation complete with more than 1 million square feet of retail shops and restaurants, 500,000 square feet of office space, 5,500 units of housing, a school, hotel and convention center.
“We believe that out of the ashes can rise New York City’s next great neighborhood,” Bloomberg told officials during the beginning of May when he announced the city’s plans for the site.
During the unveiling of the master plans, Bloomberg also spoke about the 20,000 construction jobs, 6,100 permanent jobs and more than $1.5 billion in revenue it would generate for the city during the next 30 years.
More recently, Bob Lieber, President of New York City’s Economic Development Corporation, testified before a City Council Committee and gave estimates that the projects could be near $3 billion with the city only picking up a minor percentage of the cost.
However, there are many public approval steps as well as negotiations with current landowners to relocate existing businesses, which must take place prior to the city choosing a private developer.
After receiving public support for the project, the city hopes to select a developer by the summer of 2008.
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the city’s selection for the developer for the Municipal Lot 1 site, he called it “the biggest thing to happen to Flushing since the arrival of the Mets.”
Flushing Commons, a vibrant, $800 million, mixed-use development center, which is a joint venture of TDC Development & Construction Group and the Rockefeller Group Development Corporation, is expected to open in 2011 and transform the Downtown Flushing area.
“The overarching benefit is that this project will really transform Downtown Flushing,” said Michael Meyer, President of TDC Development & Construction Group. “With the mixture of uses we’re providing, along with the creation of an amazing new ‘village green,’ we really are going to see a total transformation of the entire area.”
The project will reconstruct the site of the Municipal Lot 1 into a mixed-use site complete with 325,000 square feet of national and local retail shops, restaurants, a movie theater, a 130,000 square foot hotel, 80,000 square feet of office space and 500 condominiums that vary in size from studios to three bedrooms.
In addition, the development will include 1.43 acres of public open space, 50,000 square feet devoted to community facilities and a 1,600-space parking garage, which provides 50 percent more parking spaces than currently available at the Municipal Lot.
While the development will add a number of community facilities, it will also have a dramatic positive impact on the Flushing economy.
The project will provide 2,600 construction jobs, 1,800 full and part-time permanent jobs as well as pour in $863 million in total economic output from construction and $382 million in annual economic output from operations. Meyer also said that the household residents at the development would pump an estimated $17 million per year into the local economy.
Anyone who has attended a New York Mets home game or driven by Shea Stadium can see the beginning of a new era in Mets history developing right before their eyes with the construction of Citi Field - the new home for the Mets expected to open for the beginning of the 2009 season.
The new, open-air stadium, will seat 45,000 spectators, a decrease of nearly 10,000 from Shea Stadium, but it will also have many amenities that will make Citi Field a destination. Some of those amenities include a number of restaurants, roomier seats and better sightlines to the field.
In November of 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Helen Marshall led a group of state, city and local politicians in a groundbreaking ceremony for the project saying it will have a tremendous positive impact on the economy.
“The benefits to the borough, city and state are very significant creating thousands of new jobs,” said David Howard, Mets Executive Vice President, Business Operation.
With construction ongoing, it is expected that the stadium will generate more than 6,000 jobs, and the Mets made a commitment to making sure a percentage of the construction contracts went to minority and women-owned businesses as well as to local contractors.
Borough President Helen Marshall and members of the Queens delegation of the city council had been lobbying the city to bring a new Police Academy to Queens, and in April of this year, they got their wish.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced that the city had chosen a College Point site, which is currently occupied by the tow pound, at 129-05 31st Avenue, as the location for the new $1 billion modern complex that will consolidate in one-location facilities for civilians, recruits and active police officers that are currently spread out across the city.
“All the successes our city has achieved are built on a solid foundation of public safety,” Bloomberg said. “As we invest in our City’s future, we must also strengthen this foundation.”
The facility would include instruction space, support and administration buildings, a field house, indoor shooting ranges, a tactical village, housing facility, driver-training fields, K-9 environments, parking, a vehicle maintenance facility and a utility plant.
After going through the Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP), the City’s Department of Design and Construction will oversee the project and a groundbreaking could come by the end of 2009.
REGO PARK CENTER
When Mayor Michael Bloomberg came to Rego Park to break ground on Vornado Trust’s Rego Park Center, he characterized the project as a team effort that will benefit everyone.
“Rego Park Center is a wonderful example of what can be accomplished when government, the real estate industry and local communities partner together in designing projects that grow New York City’s economy while also enriching local neighborhoods and serving the needs of residents in the community,” he said.
The development, which is a dynamic mixed-use development center, which will include retail, housing and public amenities, will benefit the surrounding neighborhoods.
The project, which the Department of City Planning began researching two years ago, has already received commitments from Century 21, Kohl’s and Home Depot to anchor the site, which includes nearly 600,000 square feet of retail on four levels, access to a 1,400 space parking garage and public galleria. The retail component of the project is expected to open in 2009.
In addition to the retail component, plans indicate that the development could produce nearly 400 residential units, which will be available for the community.
“Working with our architects and in consultation with city planners and Community Board 6, we have designed a project that both blends with and enhances the character and flavor of the Rego Park community,” said Vornado Realty Trust Chair and CEO Steven Roth. “We are confident that in the end, we will be contributing to an even more dynamic neighborhood with even better options for shopping, leisure and living.”
Already a gigantic presence in western Queens, Silvercup Studios has a $1 billion expansion project dubbed “Silvercup West,” for the area just south of the Queensboro Bridge.
The complex will feature eight new soundstage studios as part of a larger two million square foot complex containing an office tower, two high-rise apartment facilities, many different shops, a waterfront esplanade as well as ample public open space.
The eight new studios, which will be the first studios that Silvercup has built from the ground up, will be 16,000 square feet and give the studios the opportunity to expand their productions of television shows, films and commercials.
The complex is also projected to generate 2,200 construction jobs, 3,900 long-term jobs and 2,500 indirect jobs, and many of the jobs will be available for residents in the local community.
In addition, Silvercup agreed to allot 15 percent or 150 residential units for affordable housing.
“I think the project is great for Queens,” said City Councilmember Eric Gioia, who represents the area where the project will take place. Gioia said that he has been pushing for more affordable housing for the middle class throughout Queens and Silvercup’s project reflects many of the things he is trying to accomplish in the borough.
“We’re pleased to be working with HPD (Department of Housing Preservation and Development) to create affordable housing within the Queens community that will help further the city’s affordable housing programs,” said Silvercup CEO Alan Suna.
Suna said that his team at Silvercup worked with City Planning for a number of years about designs for the project in order to come up with plans that will benefit all parties involved.
The project could be completed as early as 2009.
THE JAMAICA PLAN
Throughout the past year, “The Jamaica Plan,” a city proposal to rezone a large portion of Jamaica has garnered much attention.
The Department of City Planning has been meeting with members of community boards 8 and 12 to try to iron out concerns the community has about the plan, which the city says is a comprehensive planning and rezoning strategy to strengthen economic opportunities downtown, curb overdevelopment in low density areas and foster more orderly, well-planned growth.
Included in the plans are long-term development improvements for downtown Jamaica with a 30,000 square foot Signature Park, residential, a hotel, office and retail space as well as increased public parking.
After opening a little more than a year ago, the Shops at Atlas Park, located at 8000 Cooper Avenue at the intersection of 80th Street, has already opened more than 90 retail establishments and provided Queens residents with an outdoor mall with shops for all their needs.
The Shops, which sit on 12-acres of land with an open, green space in the middle that serves as the town center, offers an exciting mix of clothing stores, shoe stores, house wares, restaurants and even a movie theatre.
Last month, the center opened a Cold Stone Creamery, AT&T Wireless and Les Shoes Elys/es, which sells popular brands of purses and shoes.
“Each of these retailers beautifully complements our existing store roster,” said Damon Hemmerdinger, Development Director for The Shops at Atlas Park. “Cold Stone is located near our Regal Cinemas, creating a perfect movie night treat. AT&T is the leading wireless telecommunications provider in the nation; Atlas Park patrons can now buy AT&T cell phones or accessories. Les Shoes Elys/es offers popular and high-end brands not available elsewhere in the area. It is a perfect accompaniment to our fashion stores such as White House/Black Market and Stella Gialla.”
In addition, The Shops are not stopping their growth. Plans are already in the works for a Chili’s Bar & Grill, The Fair Home Design and Chopin Chemist to open at the site in the near future.
During the next few years, Queens’ waterfront property will get a new look.
The 74-acre site located directly across from midtown Manhattan will undergo tremendous development and growth in a four-phase, three-neighborhood project dubbed “Queens West” that will create a waterfront community that the borough has never seen before.
The first two stages of the project, which have already begun and in some parts are already completed, includes the development of 11 residential buildings on the northern portion of the development. Encompassed in this phase from 47th Avenue to 50th Avenue, AvalonBay Communities Inc. developed three buildings with more than 1,000 residences and additional retail space. Already, a building with 79 apartments for seniors exists within this area.
In addition, Rockrose Developers are building seven buildings, called East Coast, on approximately 20 acres of land in the northernmost section of Queens West on the waterfront in Long Island City. Rockrose’s portion of the development will be comprised of 2.9 million square feet of mixed-use space, 2,900 luxury rental apartments, sophisticated condominiums and retail spaces, and eight acres of waterfront parkland. Currently, one building is already up and 100 percent leased with leasing going on the market on Labor Day for the second building to be completed.
Rockrose plans to develop East Coast in eight phases, with the remaining buildings expected to be finished by 2012.
The third phase of the project is also residential and is slated for the southernmost point of the project with rough 2,200 units of housing, retail and open, community space.
Finally, stage four, which is the commercial phase of the project spanning from 50th to 54th Avenue, will link all of the residential developments and include 2 million square feet of office units, retail facilities as well as open space. LCOR, a real estate and development company, has been selected to develop this portion of the project known as QueensPort. The site will come with a number of competitive advantages for businesses including, cost savings, access to mass transportation as well as beautiful work environment.