By Rich Bockmann
Downtown Jamaica is hungry — to the tune of $428.5 million.
The area’s economic development leaders met property owners, brokers and restaurateurs Tuesday to showcase more than a dozen sites primed to house restaurants looking to tap into millions of dollars in unmet demand for dining options.
“I’m imagining you’re here because you have some interest in opening up a restaurant in a new location — maybe in Jamaica,” said Mark Lohbauer, a consultant who surveyed the shopping habits of visitors to the area.
“But, of course, you’ve got hundreds of other choices right here in the five boroughs of the city. You could go anywhere,” he added. “Why should you be thinking about coming to Jamaica?”
What is unique about downtown Jamaica, Lohbauer said, is that the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. and the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District are heavily involved in filling out the area’s ground-floor space.
“They bothered to treat their district much like a mall,” he said “and they intend to manage it much like a mall.”
Within the past year, GJDC has made deals to bring to the area a 160,000-square-foot department store and a 210-room hotel with 5,000 square feet of retail and space on the second floor for a 200-seat restaurant.
The nonprofit development corporation expects that early next year one of its partners will cut the ribbon on a 100-unit, mixed-use building with 4,500 square feet of retail space and GJDC is closed to inking a deal to bring a 410-unit project with 120,000 square feet of retail space to Archer Avenue.
The Jamaica Center BID has been active, too, organizing events like an annual fashion show and collecting data aimed at highlighting the area’s economic potential.
Yet despite the 86,000 shoppers, college students, workers and commuters who pass through the district each day — and the thousands of residents who bypass the area for those with more ample dining options — downtown Jamaica has only three sit-down restaurants: Sangria’s on Sutphin Boulevard, Applebee’s on Jamaica Avenue and CityRib on Parsons Boulevard.
Lohbauer said those surveyed rank full-service restaurants, cafés, bistros and specialty food stores as the kinds of establishments they would like to most see downtown.
Katie Mirkin, the BID’s retail development associate, highlighted a few properties that would be good for a restaurant, including a newly renovated building across from the Supreme Court with 1,200 square feet of retail space below four floors of office space.
“You kind of have that in-house clientele waiting — I’m waiting — for something of a more healthy option,” she said, showing that active management style Lohbauer spoke of earlier. “Chiptole, Panera. That’s just my own preference.”
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.