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Downtown Jamaica BIDs plan to restyle district

Downtown Jamaica BIDs plan to restyle district
Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

Downtown Jamaica’s two business improvement districts held their annual meetings last week where they reviewed their 2012 accomplishments and discussed initiatives for the next year, all of which focused on changing the shopping district’s image.

Between the two of them, the Jamaica Center and the Sutphin Boulevard BIDs have about 870 retail businesses, though the two corridors are a bit different.

The Jamaica Center BID runs along Jamaica Avenue from 169th Street to Sutphin Boulevard, and the strip is dominated by shops selling clothing, electronics and household items. The BID called its campaign to draw Manhattan-type shoppers to the avenue “Lights, Camera, Action: The Making of an Outstanding Destination,” which is aimed at what Executive Director Laurel Brown said was changing negative perceptions about Jamaica.

“I’d say the biggest misperception is that the area is not safe,” she said.

Over the past year, the BID hosted a glitzy fashion show, implemented a visual merchandising campaign to help shopkeepers build attractive window displays and coordinated a late-night shopping event.

Brown said at the BID’s meeting last Thursday that 80 percent of the avenue’s businesses close at 7 p.m., but 70 percent of their revenues are made after 6 p.m. She said shops would make more money, and Jamaica Avenue’s reputation would benefit, if stores stayed open later and the district did not shut down so early.

“It’s a coordination problem,” she said. “Some businesses want to stay open, but if everyone else is closed, they stay closed.”

Brown said the BID would continue programs, such as the visual merchandising campaign, in 2013.

The meeting’s keynote speaker, Thomas McKnight from the city Economic Development Corp., said about 70 percent of Jamaica Avenue’s shoppers came from the greater Jamaica area.

“I really see the potential to attract shoppers from other neighborhoods in Queens, other boroughs and outside the city,” he said.

The Sutphin Boulevard BID, which runs from Hillside Avenue to 94th Avenue, held its meeting Friday. The Sutphin BID is anchored by the transit center on its southern end and caters mainly to businesses associated with commuters and the court houses on the boulevard.

City Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica) spoke at the meeting and said he would like to see the BID’s boundaries extended to the south, possibly as far as Liberty Avenue, an area he said could be marketed as the neighborhood’s “restaurant row.”

Executive Director Simone Price said the Sutphin BID rolled out its first value card in May, offering discounts at 34 participating stores.

“We’re still looking to see how much business it drove to each store,” she said.

The BID planned to repeat the summer concert series from last year, with a jazz band scheduled to play outside the courthouses on three consecutive Thursday afternoons beginning Aug. 9.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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