Jamaica parking lots will become $85M affordable housing and retail complex

Right parking lot
Photo courtesy of Christopher Bride/PropertyShark

Developers of a plan to transform two parallel open-air parking lots in Jamaica into a massive retail center will also add a housing component to the mix, The Courier has learned.

The project, which has been expanded since an initial announcement in 2013, is a joint effort between the owner of the parking lots near 168th Street and 90th Avenue, the nonprofit Greater Jamaica Development Corp. (GJDC), and Blumenfeld Development Group (BDG).

The GJDC will transfer the lots to Blumenfeld, which will construct a 265,000-square-foot retail center, an affordable housing residential building and a parking garage with about 550 spots to replace the lost parking in the deal. Blumenfeld will return the garage to the not-for-profit agency after completion of the project, according to representatives of the developer. The project is estimated to cost $85 million at this point.

“The reason why this is a good thing is because there is no space in downtown Jamaica that can accommodate a big-box retailer,” GJDC Executive Vice President Andrew Manshel said. “It’ll certainly bring more people to the downtown and increase foot traffic, so that’s good for everybody.”

The retail center will be built on one parking lot, which sits between Merrick Boulevard and 168th Street.

The second parking lot, between 168th Street and 169th Street, will have a retail component to complement the shopping center across the street as well as the residential building and the parking garage.

Blumenfeld has already spoken to a number of big-box retailers to be the anchor tenant of the project, representatives said, including BJ’s, Costco and Burlington Coat Factory.

“The number of people living and working in downtown Jamaica combine to create significant demand and buying power that exceeds the current retail supply by $3.7 billion,” said David Blumenfeld, vice president of the development firm. “We expect our efforts to help attract a combination of retailers that can tap into the unmet demand, creating additional jobs, investment and tax revenue.”

The project needs to go through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure (ULURP) approval process, because the developer will not be able to build the massive parking garage under current zoning regulations. They are aiming to get approval by 2016.

Since the project is still in the planning phases, representatives could not immediately say how big the residential building will be and how much of it would be moderate- and low-income housing. The decision to add affordable housing was brought about in part because of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ambitious push to create more housing, representatives said.

“We also believe that the project can make an impact beyond the provision of new retail opportunities,” Blumenfeld said. “We share the administration’s belief that the addition of affordable housing brings an added benefit to the community, and we are enthusiastic about assisting the city [in making] additional strides toward meeting its housing goals.”

The plan to transform Jamaica parking lots into major development projects has become a popular one recently, as it has been throughout the city.

Last year, representatives from the New York City Economic Development Corp. announced plans for a request for proposals to develop a 45,000-square-foot parking garage on 168th Street between Jamaica and Archer avenues.

Also, in October an investor bought a huge parking garage and commercial strip at 163-05 and 163-25 Archer Ave., and plans to develop the property into a housing and retail mix, according to a published report.