Plans to construct a luxurious 25-story hotel and convention center in Corona are crumbling amid growing pressure from residents and politicians who feel the structure would degrade the quality of life in the neighborhood by obstructing views, increasing traffic and creating pollution.
Now the developer, Fleet Financial Group, led by president Richard Xia, is considering downsizing the project to a 12-story mixed-use building called the Eastern Emerald Hotel at 112-21 Northern Blvd., according to reports. Even so, residents are against the revised development as well.
“They thought we were a quiet neighborhood. They awoke a sleeping giant,” said Beryl Major, who refers to herself as the facilitator of S.T.O.P. (Standing Together On Principle), a group of residents formed to combat the development of the center. “What [Xia] wants to build, whether it’s as of right or not, it doesn’t belong in this neighborhood.”
S.T.O.P. held its second public meeting Thursday at First Baptist Church across the border in East Elmhurst, which featured ranking members of the Department of City Planning.
Borough President Melinda Katz and Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras were also in attendance, and joined the chorus against the project, believing it would become a glaring structure among the community of low-rise homes.
Fleet Financial Group paid $17 million in 2013 for the site at 112-21 Northern Blvd., which was home to the DiBlasi Ford dealership.
The group originally planned for a $200 million hotel and exhibition hall, with 292 hotel rooms, 236 apartments, a shopping center, a high-class restaurant and a 300-space garage.
However, after scaling back the project to the as of right plans, or what it is legally entitled to build without a variance or rezoning, now the development could become a 12-story mixed-use residential, hotel and community facility building, with a parking garage and a community facility.
This smaller project would have 206 apartments in eight upper floors of residential space, and 197 hotel guestrooms in three floors, according to the plans obtained by The Courier.
Xia said the reason for scaling back the project was because of traffic conditions, according to a report.
But the larger 25-story project would have needed to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) for a required rezoning, and it most certainly would have been doomed without community, City Council and borough president support.
Because of the extensive amount of construction projects occurring around their neighborhoods, including the National Tennis Center expansion and the mega mall at Willets Point, residents are seeing too much change happening too quickly.
Even Ferreras — a supporter of the Willets Point plan — hopes the new planned hotel is a fleeting idea.
“I’m not someone who believes that we have to stop every project,” she said, “but there are projects that just make no sense. And this one contextually makes no sense for our community.”
In February the Department of Buildings disapproved permits to construct the 12-story building.