Downtown Jamaica rises

Photo by Rich Bockmann
By Rich Bockmann

One of the most strategic and underdeveloped corners in downtown Jamaica is set to undergo a massive overhaul, with plans in the works to build 400 apartments and 80,000 square feet of retail space at one of the city’s busiest transportation hubs.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corp. is set to make an announcement Friday detailing the 22-story, mixed-use tower the nonprofit and its partner will build on the corner of Sutphin Boulevard and Archer Avenue across from the Long Island Rail Road station, the JFK AirTrain terminal and the Parsons-Archer subway station.

“The developer is going to have amenities at least of what [the nearby building] Moda has,” Justin Rodgers, GJDC’s head of real estate and economic development, said at the group’s quarterly meeting last week. as he compared. Moda, the Dermot Co.’s 346-unit, market-rate development, opened several blocks away in 2010 and includes two open-air decks, valet service, a gym and a lounge.

“So that means it’s going to at least have a fitness center,” he added. “It’s going to be a 22-story building, so it’s going to have a roof deck. They’re talking to several major grocery stores.”

The site is in an area eligible for the city’s Food Retail Expansion to Support Health program, offering developers up to 20,000 feet in additional development rights and tax incentives in exchange for bringing grocery stores into underserved areas.

The project, which Greater Jamaica calls Site 6, is in an area of the downtown characterized at the street level by a traffic-choked intersection and a hodgepodge of low-rent retail properties that promises to be unrecognizable in a few years.

Site 6 sits at the nexus of transportation lines that carry more than 200,000 passengers each day, and as the city was putting the final touches on its plan to rezone the neighborhood in 2007 in order to promote transit-oriented development, Greater Jamaica began assembling nearly a dozen properties stretching about 600 feet east from Sutphin Boulevard along Archer Avenue.

Meanwhile, the city put plans in place to ease congestion to widen Archer Avenue and create public plazas where a handful of two- and three-story buildings now stand across the street. A project to extend Atlantic Avenue and create a traffic loop on the south side of the railroad tracks will also help mitigate gridlock.

Greater Jamaica released a request for proposals to develop the site in June 2012, and since that time the non-profit has announced several major development projects for the neighborhood, including a 160,000-square-foot retail center toward the eastern side of downtown and a 26-story hotel to be erected on the southern side of the LIRR station.

At the meeting last week, officials said Duane Reade, which currently has a lease at the corner through 2018 and the option to renew until 2023, will probably relocate during construction to the retail spaces beneath the railroad tracks that have struggled to attract tenants since they were opened by Greater Jamaica in 2012.

The developer is the BRP Development Corp., which is almost finished with construction on Macedonia A.M.E. Church’s affordable housing building in downtown Flushing.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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