NEW YORK CITY—While Manhattan and Brooklyn continue to be the most buzzed about boroughs, a great deal of development is happening in Queens. (See our story on Long Island City this coming Monday to find out about development there.)
In Jamaica, projects seem to be happening across virtually all commercial real estate types; and with good reason. The area has several advantages over the more recognized portions of the city, F. Carlisle Towery, president, Greater Jamaica Development Corp., tells GlobeSt.com.
“We are a terrific multi modal hub,” he says. “Jamaica Station is a hub of the Long Island Rail Road—with 10 lines—it’s one of the city’s busiest bus corridors, we have the Airtrain here and we’re 10 minutes away from John F. Kennedy International Airport.”
In addition, Towery notes, a rezoning of the area encourages high-density development, “and we offer competitive land rates. Per buildable square foot, we’re at $30 to $40, while comparable space is going for $60 to $100 in other parts of the city.”
The rezoning changed Jamaica’s FAR from around 1 or 2 to 10-12, with a height limit of up to 290 feet, which has spurred many projects.
A developer is looking to build a commercial project with retail and housing on 50,000 square feet of land adjacent to Jamaica Station on the northern side of Sutphin Boulevard, Jamaica’s main drag. To the east, a 200-room hotel is under contract and Atlantic Avenue, another key corridor, is being extended to make the area more accessible to the Van Wyck Expressway.
The GJDC is spending more than $85 million on improvements in the area and recently turned an “unsightly” loading dock into a pedestrian arcade with a widened sidewalk and a strip of retail stores. The agency also has bought from the city two parking lots, one of which it hopes to convert to retail.
“Many of our residents go to Long Island to shop, so the city is leaking retail jobs,” says Towery. “Three department stores left here in a 10 year period. We’re hoping to rebuild Jamaica as a retail district.”
Meanwhile, Jamaica Crossing, a 400-unit transit oriented, mixed-use residential and commercial project of BRP Cos., is under way adjacent to the Air Train station. The $225-million development will have 80 to 100 stores, including a much larger Duane Reade than the one currently at the train and bus station, which spans 6,000 square feet, BRP co-founder and managing partner Meredith Marshall tells GlobeSt.com.
“We’re talking to some national restaurants, national retailers and some banks,” he reveals. “If you look at demographics and how New York is trending, we think Jamaica will be attractive for middle and moderate income households.”
Another company making a bet on the area is the Dermot Co. It opened a 346-unit residential building, which includes some affordable housing, and a 10,000-square-foot grocery. The company also has a sit-down restaurant called City Rib in Jamaica and is looking to lease another 20,000 square feet of commercial space at its development. It’s likely that a restaurant will become a tenant.
Dermot has a unique approach to working with tenants, notes Drew Spitler, director of development. “We have funds available to help tenants build and design the space. It’s a business deal, not a grant, but opening a store is capital intensive and tenants often have great skills as operators but they don’t necessarily have the couple of millions of dollars that it takes to open.”
GJDC also is working to lure a pharmacy school to Jamaica because of the presence of York College, which has one of the biggest Food & Drug Administration labs in the nation.
“York has a 50-acre campus and it’s only using about half of its space,” Towery says. “There’s real potential for growth.”