By Rich Bockmann
Downtown Jamaica’s towering new hotel will fly the Hilton Garden Inn flag, bringing a four-star property to the transitioning neighborhood.
After years of struggling to develop a plot of land on the southern side of the Long Island Rail Road tracks across from the JFK AirTrain Terminal, the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. and the MTA last year reached an agreement to sell their properties to Able Management Group, which plans to erect a 26-story, 240-room hotel oriented toward business travelers.
At a recent meeting of the GJDC, Able Chief Executive Officer Viral Patel announced the anchor property has chosen to be a Hilton Garden Inn franchise.
“We are going to brand it with a Hilton Garden Inn,” said Patel, who noted Able went into contract to purchase the property in February.
“The Hilton Garden Inn is a four-star hotel, has been in business for over 20 years — very reputable brand,” he said.
When it was first announced, the hotel was going to be 24 stories with 210 rooms, but according to the figures Patel gave, the property will now be 26 stories with 240 rooms.
Final plans for the building are expected to be completed at the end of the month, and the hotel’s architect will be Gf55 Partners, the firm that designed the Norman Towers apartments several blocks away on 161st Street as well as the Farfield Inn hotel in Long Island City and more than two dozen properties in Harlem.
Patel did give a sneak peek of drawings depicting the hotel’s ground floor, which will feature a restaurant and bar facing Sutphin Avenue across the street from the AirTrain terminal. The scope of the project has expanded as well.
The long-awaited development from fallow site to mega-hotel is representative of the delayed rejuvenation the neighborhood has experienced.
The Port Authority gave Greater Jamaica $2.7 million in 2004 to purchase the site and develop it into a corporate park, but the nonprofit struggled to attract private investment and the site remained unused.
In the meantime, the city rezoned the downtown area in 2007 with high hopes of encouraging development, but the recession hit and any plans that were in the works failed to take off.
The area has just recently started to see the signs of life that were long hoped for.
In 2012, the Dermot Co. opened its LEED-certified property Moda on Parsons Boulevard, bringing 346 luxury rental units to the neighborhood. Greater Jamaica has announced partnerships to bring a retail complex and a massive mixed-use building to the area, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo designated York College as a tax-free zone that the state is hoping will attract start-up companies.
Greater Jamaica President Carlisle Towery said the neighborhood had turned a corner.
“Jamaica’s potential is just now beginning to be realized,” he said.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4574.