Developers unveil $2 billion plan to rebuild section of Astoria focused on arts and creative industries

Street View_35th Ave (1)
Renderings courtesy of ODA Architecture

A consortium of developers has unveiled an ambitious $2 billion plan to remake a five-block section of Astoria in a neighborhood-focused initiative dubbed “Innovation QNS.”

Kaufman Astoria Studios, Silverstein Properties and BedRock Real Estate Partners presented their working plan to Community Board 1 Land Use Committee Wednesday detailing the project’s 2,700 units of mixed-income housing, some 700 of which will be permanently affordable, as well as 200,000 square feet of retail and 250,000 square feet of space for creative industries and other small businesses. There was considerable concern from committee members over the density and scale of the complex especially a series of towers, the tallest of which would be 26 stories high.

“I am proud that Kaufman Astoria Studios has acted as an economic driver, rejuvenating our immediate neighborhood through smart, thought-out development, and look forward to what we started,” KAS President and CEO Hal Rosenbluth said. “Working together with our partners and our community, which is filled with vibrant cultural institutions, fast-growing creative industries, and diverse hard-working neighbors, we can continue to mature, assuring the sustainability of what has been created.”

The project, funded by private investment, centered on five blocks at the intersection of Steinway Street and 35th Avenue south to Northern Boulevard, will replace a “dormant and unwelcoming” section of the neighborhood with a “vibrant and walkable” one with nearly two acres of open space, pedestrian walkways and plazas, community health and wellness facilities, dedicated senior housing, an arts and culture hub, a state-of-the-art multiplex cinema, a new full-service grocery store and enhanced streetscapes.

“I’m very excited by the opportunity to work with such great partners and local stakeholders to reactivate this part of Astoria as a district that will improve the quality of life, not just for the people who will live, learn, shop and visit there, but for everyone who currently lives in the immediate surroundings,” Silverstein Properties Chairman and Founder Larry Silverstein said. “This is a time when people desperately need jobs, and this project will serve as an enormously important stimulus for Astoria and New York City. Astoria embodies the audacity and determination that has defined our city time and time again. We will meet this moment with resolve, ambition and ingenuity, and emerge stronger than ever, just as we have always done.”

The project will create 5,400 onsite jobs, 3,700 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs; it will not displace residents or take away parking, but some businesses will be relocated.

“The havoc created by COVID-19 hit Queens harder than any community in the nation. As we look to rebound, the partnership behind Innovation QNS is well-positioned to contribute meaningfully to our recovery, as its partners have led historic revitalization initiatives before, including here in Astoria,” Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said. “Through the substantial private investment in Astoria, it is proposing, this uniquely experienced team will benefit the residents of Queens County. To ensure our communities emerge from this crisis stronger than before, I would encourage all to support this effort to revitalize a key economic corridor in western Queens along Steinway Street.”

The partnership will continue to broaden its dialogue with neighbors, other community stakeholders and the Department of City Planning to advance the plan with a goal of beginning public review in 2021. Construction is anticipated to start in 2023 with an initial activation in 2025. The developers believe Innovation QNS could be completed within a decade and complement and build upon the Kaufman Arts District that was established in 2014.

“Astoria is known throughout the world as a community that nourishes creativity and culture, especially related to film and media production, and educational programs related to the media arts,” Museum of the Moving Image Executive Director Carl Goodman said. “Both MoMI and Kaufman Astoria Studios have been a driving force behind the community-informed evolution of Astoria. We are excited to see an initiative led by our neighbors that will affirm Astoria’s identity and create opportunities for New Yorkers … We look forward to partnering with Kaufman. Silverstein Properties and BedRock to foster and celebrate the next generation of artists, performers, makers and creative entrepreneurs.”

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