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QUEENS, NY-First phase construction has started for a mixed-use development here in Long Island City, Queens–dubbed Gotham Center. Two Gotham Center is a planned 662,000-sf, 21-story class A tower on the corner of Queens Plaza and 28th Street, being developed by Tishman Speyer.

The $316 million project will replace the Queens Plaza Municipal Parking Garage. The project, which will create about 1,400 construction jobs, is the first phase of the proposed 3.5-million-sf Gotham Center development.

The tower will be occupied by the City’s Health Department and will include about 9,400 sf of ground-floor retail space and more than 180 parking spaces. The Health Department will relocate a portion of its staff to the new building from many of its 15 locations in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. Locating many of the Health Department’s non-field-based staff in this new building in Long Island City is in concert with the City’s goal of locating agency headquarters where possible under one roof for operational efficiencies and improved work environment, according to a prepared statement. The five-level garage was first occupied in 1976 and has been vacant since February 2008. Demolition has begun, and construction of the new office tower will start by the end of the year. The relocation of Health Department employees is expected to be complete in late 2011 and the precise number of staff to be relocated has not yet been determined.

The Department of Health’s new space will use the new open space standards–designed to create a better environment while increasing efficiencies–already employed by several City agencies including the Department of Transportation, the Department of Education, the Mayor’s Office of Film, Theater and Broadcasting, the Department of Consumer Affairs, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications and the Mayor’s Office, according to a statement.

Designed by Moed De Armas & Shannon, the tower will incorporate green building technology and achieve LEED Silver Certification from the US Green Buildings Council for its interiors, as well as LEED Certification for its core and shell. Tishman Speyer was selected to acquire the property and develop the project as a result of a Request for Proposals issued by EDC. The New York City Employees’ Retirement System and the Teachers’ Retirement System will commit up to $9.3 million each in equity towards the project.

“For decades, Long Island City has been talked about as an area with growth potential,” says Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a prepared statement. “Today, both the public and private sectors are making real investments in Long Island City that are transforming it from an area of substantial possibility to one of considerable activity. Gotham Center will be a further catalyst for growth in the area, and Tishman Speyer’s investment signals a great vote of confidence in the future of Long Island City and the City as a whole. At the same time, the relocation of Department of Health staff to the state-of-the-art facility will increase its operational efficiencies, consolidating units that are now dispersed. The new space will incorporate our new open space standards for City office space, designed to foster greater collaboration and a better workplace environment.”

Tishman Speyer president and co-CEO Rob Speyer, says in a prepared statement that “Gotham Center and the City’s investment in this first-class property are further proof of the ongoing transformation of the neighborhood into a vibrant business district for New York City.” A Tishman Speyer spokesman tells GlobeSt.com that they cannot, at this time, elaborate beyond what appeared in the statement.

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