Downtown Jamaica is already seeing major benefits from ‘Action Plan,’ with many more to come

Rendering courtesy of GJDC

The Jamaica Now Action Plan is already starting to change the landscape of downtown Jamaica and promises to bring even more benefits to the community before it is complete.

The 21-step plan, which was introduced in April 2015, aims to revitalize the downtown area of Jamaica through a bevy of development projects — both commercial and residential — and with an added boost to the community’s already diverse arts and cultural scene, transportation sector, and many more aspects, making Jamaica a true hub of the borough.

City officials, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and Borough President Melinda Katz, worked closely with community leaders and organizations such as the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC) with the hope of create 3,000 new housing units, 500,000 square feet of retail space, and 800 hotel rooms to the neighborhood in the $153 million five-year plan.

“I think that the Queens Borough President Melinda Katz was brilliant in creating this platform to support the changes already happening in Jamaica,” said Hope Knight, president and CEO of GJDC. “It is a systematic way to measure the progress of many actions in a coordinated way.”

The revitalization of the area really began back in 2003 with the creation of the $1.9 billion JFK AirTrain, and the rezoning of 368 blocks in the the downtown area in 2007 that led to the creation of increased development in the area.

The Jamaica Now Action Plan looks to expand on these improvements through a trifecta of goals to increase quality jobs and small business support, promote commercial growth and economic development, and to improve the livability of both residents and visitors to the area.

“The plan will make Downtown Jamaica a more vibrant community on a number of dimensions,” Knight explained. “It will create more residential facilities, elevate the arts and cultural institutions, provide more commercial activities to happen, and training for both youths and adult. All of the elements that help create a more economically vibrant community.”

In the way of residential facilities, the city is already in the process of getting rid of an underutilized NYPD parking garage at the corner of 168th Street and 93rd Avenue in order to erect a new 450,000-square-foot mixed-use building that will feature more than 350 affordable apartments, parking and retail space.

Earlier this month the Queens Borough Board voted to approve the sale of the parking garage. Construction is planned to begin on the new facility this winter, and is expected to be complete in approximately three years.

Rendering courtesy of the NYCEDC
Rendering courtesy of the NYCEDC

The Jamaica Now Action Plan will also help connect homeowners, tenants and property owners to educational programs to create neighborhood stability, expand opportunities for affordable homeownership, create small, affordable, multifamily rental buildings, and other benefits and programs to spur community development.

In all, Knight expects to see the creation of nearly 2,000 new residential units spring up across downtown Jamaica in the next few years.

An influx of new residents means increased opportunities for new businesses to come to the area, and for existing businesses to grow further.

The Action Plan looks to implement street improvements along Jamaica Avenue, unify and bolster the downtown Business Improvement Districts (BID), and fund redesigns for storefronts of businesses along Sutphin Boulevard, and release a Business Guide for Hillside Avenue and other important commercial corridors.

Owners of vacant or derelict lots within Jamaica’s downtown core will also be urged to activate those sites for potential residential or retail businesses.

The creation of hotels are a major part of the revitalization of downtown Jamaica, with its proximity to the borough’s airports and its own major transportation hub which is served by more than 50 city and regional bus lines, four subway lines, and 10 Long Island Rail Road lines.

“[Business owners] can look forward to a larger and more diverse clientele since more people will be living downtown,” Knight said. “And with the hotel rooms coming online, there will be more visitors inclined to shop downtown while staying at those hotels.”

Many other improvements besides buildings and businesses will be coming to downtown Jamaica that will improve the livability of residents and visitors alike.

The city is preparing to implement a new Select Bus Service (SBS) route from Jamaica to Flushing to better move commuters. The area will soon be getting WalkNYC directional maps, and some of the neighborhood is already connected to the LinkNYC network, which replaces old payphones with touchscreen kiosks that provide free public Wi-Fi, phone calls, directions and charging stations for mobile devices.

More changes are coming for downtown Jamaica each day and the future is bright for residents, visitors, business owners, developers and entrepreneurs.

“I am very excited about the plan and believe that significant progress has been made,” Knight added. “I am looking forward to all these projects coming to fruition to create a more vibrant and economically healthy community.”

As an added boon to downtown Jamaica, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Wednesday, July 12, the seven winning projects in the state’s $100 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI), which aims to further transform Jamaica into a vibrant economic and cultural hub for the city.

Because of the funds from the DRI, Jamaica will receive the following improvements:

  • A 10,000-square-foot co-working space run by GJDC;
  • high-speed broadband internet access;
  • improvements to the Downtown Jamaica Gateway;
  • funding for improved dining options in downtown Jamaica;
  • a public space around the Archer Archways at 159th Street;
  • funds for an expanded entrepreneurship training program; and
  • funding for improvements in the Career and Technical Education programs at Thomas A. Edison Career and Technical Education High School.

“This critical investment in Jamaica’s downtown will help it grow into a major economic hub that boosts small businesses, expands economic opportunity for residents, and draws new residents and visitors to the community,” Cuomo said in a statement.