The magic number for Queens these days seems to be 24. In the last week, it was revealed that a new 24-story hotel is headed for downtown Jamaica while the owner of the Rego Park mall is moving ahead with plans to put 24 floors of apartments above the shopping mecca.
Queens is riding the crest of a building boom that has brought 21 new hotels to western Queens in the last few years, a number of large condo and rental buildings to the blocks around Queensborough Plaza and a series of big projects to downtown Flushing.
Jamaica was one of the three areas in the borough targeted by the Bloomberg administration as ripe for development back in the mayor’s first term. Long Island City and downtown Flushing have been filled with the sounds of construction, but Jamaica has been slow to join the party.
A Long Island hotel company, Able Management, has stepped up to be the game changer. The company plans to build a 24-story tower with 210 hotel rooms and ground floor retail space across from the Jamaica AirTrain station. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and Greater Jamaica Development Corp. are selling the properties where the hotel is to be built to Abel for $4.5 million.
Now that the area across from the AirTrain station has been rezoned to high-rise commercial, the hotel tower could encourage other groups to develop large buildings in the vibrant downtown area, which more than 200,000 people visit each day using the AirTrain, the Long Island Rail Road and the subway.
Abel’s vision could be the beginning of a major transformation of the urban center.
Over in Rego Park, Vornado Realty Trust is poised to begin Phase 2 of the shopping center, which has brought an influx of jobs to the neighborhood. The plan to build 314 rental apartments in a 24-story addition on the top of the Junction Boulevard mall was approved in June.
The residential component was part of the developer’s original plan and no surprise to the community, although some members are concerned about congestion and adequate parking for the new tenants.
Despite these understandable reservations, it’s clear Queens is on the move and in need of well-thought-out development for both tourists, residents and commercial tenants that respects the rezoning of many parts of the borough.