JAMAICA, NY-The redevelopment of downtown Jamaica is advancing with a project to rehabilitate an underpass along Sutphin Boulevard into retail space. Groundbreaking on the project took place last Wednesday, and a spokesman for the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. tells GlobeSt.com, bids are under review for a prime contractor on the $10-million rehabilitation.

The future retail space is located across from the AirTrain/Long Island Rail Road Jamaica Station entrance. Site preparation work is under way, with construction scheduled to start in early 2009, says the GJDC spokesman.

The underpass rehabilitation will add overhead lighting, storefronts and a new sidewalk and roadbed, according to a release. The retail spaces will cater to 300,000-plus commuters who use the station daily with convenience stores and food vendors. GJDC will oversee leasing activity, with the goal of accommodating local qualified entrepreneurs. Finally, bus stops will be made safer for riders by widening the loading zones and making signage more visible, the release states.

Rep. Gregory W. Meeks secured funding from the Federal Transit Administration for the project, which is being undertaken by GJDC. In addition, funding was provided by the Federal Highway Administration through the New York City Economic Development Corp. Councilman Thomas White secured funds from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, and Assemblywoman Vivian Cook secured funding for LIRR’s work in the project. GJDC plans to open bids and award contracts in the next several days.

In a statement, Seth Pinsky, president of the NYCEDC, says, “Projects like this go a long way toward making the city’s neighborhoods more attractive and livable. I am pleased that EDC is participating in this project and will be participating in future Downtown Jamaica projects such as the extension of Atlantic Avenue and the realignment of Archer Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard. These projects will spur Jamaica’s continued resurgence.”

The Sutphin Boulevard project is the first in a series of three intermodal-related projects totaling $98 million in downtown Jamaica. Phase two will extend Atlantic Avenue to connect with 95th Avenue to improve access to the AirTrain/LIRR station from the Van Wyck Expressway. That project, scheduled to break ground in 2010, will also create a small park. The third phase, Station Plaza, will realign the intersection of Archer Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard to ease traffic and pedestrian conflicts as well as enhance the streetscape environment, according to a release. Work will commence in 2011. Both phases will take up to 18 months to complete. In September 2007, the city rezoned 368 blocks in Jamaica to promote the creation of three million square feet of new office, retail and hotel space along with 5,200 new units of housing.

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