Watch Jamaica Grow
From the Queens Courier
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 21, 2007
Big Changes Coming
Developments already planned for downtown Jamaica
BY PETE DAVIS
The downtown Jamaica area Queens residents see today could be very different in a few short years with many private developments and public infrastructure improvements on the horizon.
When the city council certified the Jamaica Plan, the largest rezoning effort in Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration, the zoning regulations were changed to for the downtown area to permit larger, private developments and take advantage of the regional transit hub in Jamaica.
Plans for more than 3 million square feet of office and retail space, 9,500 jobs, 5,200 housing units and a hotel are already in the works, with experts predicting that more than $1 billion in private developments invested in the downtown area.
“The potential of Jamaica to become one of New York’s premier business and residential districts has been talked about for a long time, and today we’ve taken a giant step toward making it happen,” Bloomberg said, when the rezoning proposal was announced recently.
Prior to the zoning change, the Dermot Company won an RFP from the city’s Economic Development Corporation (EDC) to redevelop the site of the former Queens Family Courthouse located on Parsons Boulevard and 89th Avenue, and it has already started demolition at the site for a 12-story 500,000 square foot, mixed-use project with 345 housing units.
Stephen Benjamin, who is a partner at the Dermot Company, said that 69 of the housing units will go up for sale through a lottery system, and the remaining 276 would be rented with 20 percent going to low-income, 40 percent to middle income and the remaining 40 percent being sold at market value.
The Dermot Company also developed the Opal apartment complex in Kew Gardens Hills in 2005.
“We just felt we could do the same thing in Jamaica [because] it has great access to subways and a very good downtown environment,” Benjamin said.
In addition to the housing component for Dermot’s Jamaica development, it will also contain a ground floor of 50,000 square feet of retail space, 20,000 feet of community space rented out to non-profit groups at low market levels and an underground parking facility garage that could accommodate 500 vehicles.
Benjamin said that once demolition is complete at the site, construction could begin shortly thereafter with a project completion date set for 2010.
Meanwhile, right across the street from the Long Island Rail Road and AirTrain station, JFK Corporate Square Associates is planning a 15-story 800,000 square-square foot merchandise mart at Sutphin Boulevard and 94th Avenue with a retail component at the base and a wholesale mart above.
Paul Travis, a partner at JFK Corporate Square Associates, said the three key factors that contributed to their interest in the site were the proximity to John F. Kennedy International Airport; the city passing the rezoning changes and the infrastructure improvements the city and state have already made or have committed to making in the area.
“We are in a very unique spot; we have a major international airport and very little development around it,” Travis said. “If we can put together an economically viable project, which we are certainly hopeful that we can, we would hope to be in the ground by next summer.”
In addition, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a private not-for-profit development company that has been in Jamaica for nearly 40 years, is working on plans for a 500,000 square foot office tower as well as a mixed-use facility with housing, retail and a 200-250 room hotel that would be accessible directly from the AirTrain.
However, Benjamin said that he does not expect the face of downtown Jamaica to change overnight, but he does believe his project is ahead of the curve as far as a timeline for completion.
“We are confident that our project will be successful even if nothing else happens,” Benjamin said.
However, he is hopeful that all of the expected growth coupled with the infrastructure improvements by the city and state will transform the area in a 24/7 hub similar to Forest Hills or downtown Brooklyn.
“We’re very excited about the long-term prospects for Jamaica,” Benjamin said.