Tag Archives: Downtown Jamaica

GJDC president reflects on Jamaica’s transformation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

File photos

When F. Carlisle Towery first took the helm as president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) in 1971, he knew a major challenge was coming.

The area was heading into the “disinvestment decade,” and downtown Jamaica’s anchoring department store giants were fleeing the area.

Towery and the GJDC fought to keep the chains, but Macy’s departed in 1978 after its lease expired to build a bigger store in a mall. Gertz exited the area in 1981 after its lease expired and Mays, which owned its building, closed its doors a few years later as well.

“We had some real serious economic trauma, because those are anchors and when they leave, lots of small stores follow,” Towery said. “Back then downtowns were going out of style and everyone was moving to malls. I’ve often said Jamaica was mall-ed.”

Now, Jamaica has transformed into one of the most attractive options for developers in New York. The downtown is buzzing with private development — and Towery is finally retiring after 43 years.

F. Carlisle Towery

F. Carlisle Towery

“I’m very comfortable and pleased,” Towery said. “It’s a great thing to look back at all these partnerships and gratitude. And more importantly I’m not leaving where I’ve got nostalgia to consume. I’m looking forward as the table is set.”

From 1978 to 1996, private investment in Jamaica totaled just $17 million. Compare that with the $364 million that has been invested in the last three years, and it’s clear how just far the neighborhood has come since 1971.

Back then, not only the stores, but also The Long Island Daily Press closed, and two banks headquartered in the area also moved to Long Island, Towery said.

Towery credits a number of strong public initiatives in Jamaica in the past few decades with leading to the rebuilding of the downtown.

Over the years, the GJDC persistently advocated what he calls “pre-developments” through seven mayors and eight governors, dating back to John Lindsay and Nelson Rockefeller, and the federal government to attract more private investment.

This includes removing the Jamaica Avenue El and extending the subway to Parsons Boulevard, which created the transportation hub of the current downtown, and moving York College into the neighborhood instead of alternative sites.

The GJDC supported building the new regional headquarters for the U.S. Social Security Administration and U.S. Food and Drug Administration, two federal entities that brought jobs into Jamaica, and creating the business improvement districts in the downtown to focus on the growth of local stores and companies.

The nonprofit also advocated for the AirTrain from John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2003, which further expanded Jamaica’s transportation hub.

Towery believes that what Jamaica is missing is more housing developments, as the GJDC worked for decades to make the area more attractive through non-housing initiates.

And because of the rapid growth of the AirTrain, which had 4.3 million riders from Jamaica last year compared to 1.1 million a decade ago, he said Jamaica should build more hotels, too.

That’s where he expects developers to focus with new projects, and he plans to “stay tuned” to the future.

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Real estate roundup: Flushing Commons construction woes, Costco eyeing downtown Jamaica


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of TDC Development International

Flushing Commons Construction Causes Traffic, Pedestrian Pains

Flushing Commons will eventually bring open space, housing and retail to downtown Flushing, but right now, construction is creating a problem for pedestrians and drivers alike.” Read more [CBS]

Costco Eyes Location in Downtown Jamaica, Developers Say

“Costco, one of the largest wholesalers in the country, is actively investigating opening a store in Downtown Jamaica, according to those approached by reps for the mega-chain. Costco representatives recently spoke to at least two developers who own property in the area, the developers confirmed.” Read more [DNAinfo]

New restaurants continue to open in Ditmars– with two more opening recently

“New restaurants continue to pop up in Ditmars. Grano’s, an Italian restaurant located at 38-01 Ditmars Blvd, began its soft opening last week and will be celebrating its official grand opening in about three weeks, according to manager Jason Day.” Read more [Astoria Post]

Cricket Wireless moving into downtown Jamaica retail space


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/ PropertyShark

Prepaid mobile service provider Cricket Wireless is moving into a 1,000-square-foot retail unit in downtown Jamaica, according to Kalmon Dolgin Affiliates, which marketed the space.

The company will establish its new branch in the building at 166-34 Jamaica Ave. between Merrick Boulevard and 168th Street, which is currently occupied by a McDonald’s and Pay-O-Matic.

Cricket Wireless, which became a subsidiary of AT&T after the cell service giant bought Leap Wireless for nearly $1.2 billion earlier this year, now has more than a dozen authorized locations around the New York metropolitan area, including a number of branches in Queens.

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New $32M housing complex opens in downtown Jamaica


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of The Bluestone Organization

A 101-apartment complex has officially opened in downtown Jamaica.

Developer The Bluestone Organization and representatives from various city agencies held a ceremonial ribbon cutting for the nine-story twin Norman Towers at 90-14 161st St.

The $32.2 million buildings consist of seven studios, 72 one-bedroom units and 21 two-bedroom units. There is also one two-bedroom apartment for a superintendent.

New office space in the towers will serve as Bluestone’s headquarters, and there are 51 parking spaces for tenants.

There is an additional 5,773 square feet of ground-floor commercial space and 4,063 square feet of retail space in the towers as well.

“Downtown Jamaica is back and on its way up,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “We welcome Norman Towers, a model development — mixed-income affordable housing, a new restaurant in a beautifully designed building. Norman Towers will utilize Jamaica’s attributes and bring new jobs. It will contribute to livability here.”

Norman_Towers

Twenty percent of the building caters to low-income residents. Three apartments are for tenants earning up to 40 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) or no more than $33,200 annually for a family of four. Seventeen apartments serve households earning up to 50 percent AMI, or no more than $41,500 annually for a family of four.

The buildings feature a cogeneration system that uses a natural gas-fueled engine to generate electricity. There are also roof gardens and every apartment has Energy Star appliances and lighting.

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Real estate roundup: 3 hotels planned for Jamaica, housing problems in Flushing  


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Massey Knakal 

Developer Plans 3 Hotels, Apartment Building and Supermarket in Jamaica

“A Flushing-based developer who recently plunked down $22 million in cash to buy the largest property in Downtown Jamaica, is planning to build three Marriott-brand hotels in the area, he said.” Read more [DNAinfo]

Family Blames Home Collapse on Nearby Sinkhole

“A Queens family thinks a nearby sinkhole on the street is the reason a giant hole opened up under their home, forcing them out. But they say the city has been no help in getting the sinkhole fixed.” Read more [NBC]

New report by Assemblyman Ron Kim shows the majority of people who come into his Flushing district office need help with housing

“The freshman state legislator issued his first-ever “District Trends Report,” analyzing 17,687 visits to his Flushing office from constituents since he took office in Jan. 2013.” Read more [New York Daily News]

The Beast Next Door to open late November

“The Beast Next Door, a neighborhood café and bar located at 42-51 27th Street, is set to open in about a month. It will be a café by day and a full bar by night, according to owner John Veenema.” Read more [LIC Post]

 

 

 

Real estate roundup: Eight-story residential tower planned for downtown Jamaica, Queens eyed for juvenile offenders facilities


By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/ PropertyShark 

Eight stories in downtown Jamaica

“Applications have been filed to begin construction of an eight-story and 31-unit residential building of 22,728 square feet at the vacant lots of 87-65 – 87-69 171st Street, in Downtown Jamaica; the site’s two-story predecessor was demolished in 2003, and M. S. Savani is designing.” Read more [New York YIMBY]

Two Queens neighborhoods being eyed for ‘limited secure’ facilities for juvenile offenders

“The city is searching for sites in Queens to place a “limited secure” facility for juvenile offenders, the News has learned. Sources said locations in South Ozone Park and Jamaica are being studied.” Read more [New York Daily News]

Checking in on Tishman Speyer’s Long Island City project

“28-18 Jackson Avenue, which is part of Tishman Speyer’s plan to bring approximately 1,600 residential apartments to Long Island City, is completely covered in pipe scaffolding now.Construction crews put the pipe scaffolding up with in the last two weeks, and a permit filed on September 11 calls for the full mechanical demolition of the building.” Read more [The Court Square Blog]

 

Landmarked 116-year-old Jamaica Savings Bank building set for transformation


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

A real estate firm investing in downtown Jamaica has plans to renovate and modify one of the area’s landmarked buildings.

The new owners of the 116-year-old Jamaica Savings Bank building at 161-02 Jamaica Ave. in the heart of the neighborhood’s downtown area has filed with the city’s Landmark Preservation Commission to modify the building.

The structure, a Beaux-Arts-style bank building designed by architecture firm Hough & Duell and built in 1898, was designated a landmark in 2008.

According to city records, the application seeks to “construct rear and side additions, replace doors, install awnings and infill window openings.”

The building was bought by the investment firm of the Laboz family, United American Land LLC, under the name 161-02 Jamaica LLC for $3.7 million, according to records filed with the city in January. Jason Laboz of the firm declined to speak with The Courier about the project.

The modification of the building could be part of a plan to add new retail tenants into the property as the company has planned with the adjacent buildings on the strip.

United American Land purchased the 10-story building next door at 160-16 Jamaica Ave. in January for $8.5 million. It filed permits to reduce the larger building down to four stories, matching the landmarked structure and the property at 160-08 Jamaica Ave., which the company owns as well.

The 160-08 Jamaica Ave. structure is still under construction for new retail tenants, according to plans posted on United American Land’s website.

The firm bought that building in 2012 for $14 million, according to city records, and an H&M was thought to be a potential anchor for that property, according to published reports.

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Real estate roundup: The Crossing in downtown Jamaica revealed, friends return to Sandy damaged house


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Rendering courtesy of BRP Companies

93-01 Sutphin Boulevard Revealed

“BRP Companies have released renderings of their 25- and 14-story mixed-use development project at 93-01 Sutphin Boulevard, in Downtown Jamaica. Dubbed The Crossing, the complex will contain 580 residential units and 100,000 square feet of retail space.” Read more [New York YIMBY]

After 50 years in business, Frankie’s Pizzeria has closed

“The operators of Frankie’s Pizza, which is located at 22-56 31st Street, left a note in the window that read: Dear Costumers! Thank you for your loyalty and support after 50 years of business– Frankie’s Pizza is closing!” Read more [Astoria Post]

Organic Coffee Shop with Vegetarian Menu Opens in Forest Hills

“A new coffee shop featuring organic and vegetarian menu opened this week in Forest Hills, a neighborhood that has been primarily served by coffee shop chains, including Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts.” Read more [DNAinfo]

Rockaway Park Friends Return To Homes Damaged In Superstorm Sandy

“Nearly two years after Superstorm Sandy, two friends in a Queens neighborhood are finally back in their own homes.” Read more [CBS]

Massive downtown Jamaica development site sells for $22 million


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/ PropertyShark 

Downtown Jamaica’s development boom is expected by many sometime in the future, but one recent sale suggests developers may be springing into action already.

The nearly 90,000-square-foot building and parking garage site at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave. in the heart of the downtown area traded hands for $22 million, according to property records filed Tuesday.

Gertz Plaza sold the site to Jamaica Tower, which has yet to file any building or demolition plans on the site, but it has tons of development potential, according to Massey Knakal Realty Services.

“This sale signifies the return of the residential development market in downtown Jamaica,” said Massey Knakal’s Brian Sarath, who handled the transaction. “It is the largest site to trade since the downturn and will be a catalyst for the Jamaica development market moving forward.”

The site currently has a one-story building with an accompanying seven-story parking garage. The building, which has 10 units, currently only uses 32,471 square feet of the site and some units are vacant, while the garage is 280,000 square feet.

It is a developer’s dream with 719,736 square feet of buildable space near a gigantic transportation hub of subways, LIRR, the AirTrain and dozens of buses.

“We received numerous bids in a short period of time from developers that were priced out of other areas in the city and see tremendous value in the downtown Jamaica market,” Sarath said.

Photo courtesy Massey Knakal

Photo courtesy of Massey Knakal

Advocates and public officials have been trying to lure developers and business to Jamaica in recent years with incentives such as a 368-block rezoning of the downtown area and using York College as a tax-free haven for moving companies and start-ups.

York College, which is located across from the site, also hopes to help usher in development and new businesses as a START-UP NY site, and is offering new businesses about 3.5 acres of land on-campus.

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3.5 acres of on-campus land at York College will be home to new companies


| lguerre@queenscourier.com

Photo and map courtesy of York College

Parts of Jamaica may look forlorn with many properties vacant or in need of repair, but its shopping district and its richness in transportation options could turn it into the next big thing for development.

Businesses from around the state and outside New York are vying to enter the neighborhood through Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s START-UP NY tax-free program at York College, which school officials are touting as a potential catalyst for a development explosion in downtown Jamaica.

York representatives told The Courier that they are in negotiations with many businesses looking to partner with the school in exchange for no corporate, sales or property taxes for 10 years, and move to a property near the school or build on a portion of 3.5 acres of vacant, government-owned land on campus.

The vacant property, called Site 9, was identified in a plan that school administrators submitted to the governor’s office in July. The site is bounded by Guy Brewer Boulevard, Liberty Avenue, 165th Street and South Road. A parking lot and green space at the Brewer Boulevard side of the block are not part of the development site.

That plan was submitted by CUNY to the state Commissioner for Economic Development and was recently approved.

The plan details the types of businesses York is hoping to attract, based on the school’s academic and research programs.

Although school representatives said they weren’t allowed to discuss the specific businesses that they are considering, those fields include pharmaceutical, medical device research and manufacturing, water resource management and purification, logistics, aviation, wireless technology, solar power companies and food science research and manufacturing.


School administrators said the partnering businesses will benefit not only students but also the neighborhood, which should see increased employment as a diversifying local business landscape becomes a magnet to attract other firms to the area.

“[The program] is moving in the right direction and we are quite excited,” said Earl Simons, director of government and community relations at York. “It provides potential opportunities for our students in terms of internships as well as important opportunities for the surrounding community.”

S- York Map 2

Near York College, the downtown Jamaica area hosts a comprehensive transportation hub. The AirTrain transports passengers to John F. Kennedy Airport in about 10 minutes, while the LIRR takes thousands of people to Manhattan daily in about 20 minutes. There are about 49 bus lines running through and around the area, and the E, J, Z and F subway lines are nearby.

There have been several recent moves to leverage this resource.

A 368-block rezoning was completed in downtown Jamaica in 2007 to allow more developments with commercial and residential uses.

And earlier this year, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a nonprofit that has been working to transform the neighborhood, announced the development of a $225 mixed-use, 29-story residential and commercial tower at the building it owns on 93-01 Sutphin Blvd. at Archer Avenue, just north of the LIRR/AirTrain complex.

Rendering courtesy Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

93-43 Sutphin Blvd. rendering courtesy of Greater Jamaica Development Corporation

That followed the 2013 announcement of a 210-room, 24-story hotel on the south side of the LIRR complex at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd., a plot of land that is partly owned by the nonprofit.

The Development Corp is collaborating with York to help bring businesses to downtown Jamaica through the tax-free zone program, school officials said.

Businesses looking to set up shop in the tax-free zone need to appeal to several selection committees as well as school and state officials. While no immediate announcement of incoming companies is expected, York is confident in the program’s ability to be the push downtown Jamaica needs.

“It’s another tool to really spur development and economic opportunities and job creation,” Simons said. “It can only enhance all of the efforts that are taking place here.”

 

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Jamaica residents, culture featured as ‘unsung greats’


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Maggie Hayes

The development of downtown Jamaica is no longer limited to new buildings and facilities. A website dedicated to revealing community art and neighborhood loyalty is making a buzz.

Queens Royalty, the site launched earlier this year, came from “a desire to counteract some of the negative perception of downtown Jamaica,” said Felicia Tunnah, executive director at the Jamaica Center BID, the group that sponsored the project.

“The idea is to celebrate the history but also celebrate the people who are here now and who are doing great things,” she said.

The Jamaica-centric site features residents, the “unsung greats,” and their stories, as well as photos of both local celebrities and community members. It also focuses attention on iconic buildings throughout the neighborhood, such as the landmarked Jamaica High School.

“They are our neighbors and loved ones, who always push forward and reach back. They are our elders and youth, who have experienced history and beckon the future,” the website’s description says.

Brian Tate, creator and producer, wanted a heavy emphasis on the area’s youth.

“Sometimes, the young people are seen as a problem. So I wanted to start there,” he said. “The youth aren’t a problem. They’re the future.”

Queens Royalty commissioned four acclaimed photographers – Barron Claiborne, Delphine Diaw Diallo, Russell Frederick, and Jamel Shabazz – to capture a mix of local artists, entrepreneurs, students, and families.

Tate said he wanted to make these people “a part of the story, to shape what the story is and how that story is told.”

“I think there’s a lot of love among the people in Jamaica,” he said. “It’s just having a vehicle for them to express that. It’s promoting a place from the inside out.”

To make the vision a reality, Tate and the BID partnered with Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, NYC Small Business Services, the Economic Development Corporation, Borough President Helen Marshall, the 165th Street Mall and Sutphin Boulevard BID.

Tunnah said the website is “a place for people to share their own stories and really just to continue the dialogue and celebrate what’s happening here.”

Visit www.queensroyalty.org to discover more and submit a story of your own.

 

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New hotel adds to downtown Jamaica development


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of GJDC

Downtown Jamaica development is continuing to climb – 24 stories up– with a new, 210-room hotel.

The hotel will be built at 93-43 Sutphin Boulevard, across the street from the Jamaica Long Island Rail Road station, the E and J subway lines and the John F. Kennedy International Airport AirTrain.

The $35 million project is another addition in the efforts to develop downtown Jamaica.

“No other neighborhood in New York offers the convenience of a wide array of commercial and retail outlets, combined with subways, the Long Island Rail Road, buses and the AirTrain providing quick and easy access to [the] airport just a 10-minute ride away,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC).

GJDC owns a portion of the site with the financial support of the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey. Another portion is owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The MTA’s Finance Committee and the full board both approved of the hotel proposal last week.

The hotel, complete with a full-service restaurant and ground floor retail space, will be built and managed by Able Management Group, a Long Island-based developer. Able Hotels has agreed to pay $4.5 million to purchase the entire property.

“The location is well-suited for a hotel,” said Viral Patel, Able Hotels CEO. “We look forward to successful completion of the project and becoming part of the downtown Jamaica business community.”
Patel also said the group is “excited about this project and furthering the vision set forth for downtown Jamaica by GJDC.”

Legal steps will be taken to finalize the contract with Able Hotel, said a GJDC spokesperson. If all goes well, construction is scheduled to start in the first quarter of 2014.

 

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Sheraton coming to Jamaica


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Andrew Levenbaum, P.E.

Downtown Jamaica development is under way with the official announcement of a Four Points Sheraton hotel headed to the area.

After the economic downturn of a few years ago, development and investment interest is at long last picking back up, said Laurel Brown, executive director of the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District (BID).

“There is a lot of untapped potential down here. We’re seeing people latch onto that,” she said. “Having Sheraton invest in Jamaica just underscores exactly what we’re saying.”

The 150-room hotel is expected to go up on 94th Avenue near 147th Street, one block away from JFK International Airport’s AirTrain and the Long Island Railroad transportation hub. Groundbreaking is projected for later this year or early 2014, according to Andrew Levenbaum, P.E., the architect for the project.

Community leaders hope that the addition of a well-known name such as Sheraton will bring fliers as well as a more diverse crowd to the area.

Simone Price, executive director of the Sutphin Boulevard BID, said it also had the potential to elevate interest for other businesses to plant roots in Jamaica.

“People always want to see someone else come into the district first,” she said. The Sheraton “will be a great launching pad.”

Price added the hotel will give southeast Queens its first meeting and event space as well as job opportunities.

The BIDs and the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) are still in talks with various businesses in hopes of getting them to lease space in the area, Brown said.

CityRib, a new Manhattan-based barbecue eatery, is slated to open in the neighborhood as well. Brown said the high-end restaurant will give residents and visitors a different option in a community dominated by fast-food chains.

 

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Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning offers space to cultural institutions


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photos courtesy of Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning

The Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) is opening its doors to the city, inviting other cultural organizations and working artists to use any of its many available performance spaces.

“We began to realize that we had untapped resources that weren’t being utilized,” said JCAL’s Executive Director Carl Fields. “A lot of folks go into Manhattan [or] Brooklyn to find suitable rehearsal space. Now they’ll be able to find something closer to home.”

Fields added that cultural organizations such as JCAL get funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs, but have seen cuts over the past couple of years. With the new space initiative, JCAL will charge cheaper prices than the standard rates for rehearsal and performance sites, in the hope of boosting the center’s own revenue.

The Jamaica YMCA recently signed on to use some JCAL space for its new youth program, the Y Roads Initiative. JCAL’s space initiative should be in full swing by the summer.

“The availability of JCAL for use by a wide range of arts groups is of terrific benefit to Jamaica,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation. “Cultural activity [is] a key element in the revitalization of Downtown Jamaica.”

Fields said that JCAL has a responsibility to cater to the artistic community of southeast Queens. The center hopes that others will use the rehearsal space, perfect their craft and give performances for the community to enjoy.

Four dance studios and two theaters along with music rooms are available.

“We think we have enough to meet the demand for space,” Fields said. “One thing primarily is it’s going to give an option that’s first class, safe and closer to home.”

JCAL has already had informal talks with “a number of people” who have indicated they would like to come and use the space, according to Fields. The site will be open until 9 p.m. every night, but hours are subject to change depending on need.

 

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