NEW YORK CITY-Developers on Flushing Commons tell they expect the $900-million, one-million-square-foot mixed-use project to get through the public review process by mid-summer. The project cleared its first major approvals hurdle earlier this week when Queens Community Board 7 voted in favor of it, albeit with a list of stipulations attached.

“This has been a long process; we’re five years into it since we were designated” as the development team, says Michael Meyer, president of TDC Development and Construction Corp. After issuing an RFP, the city in 2005 selected a joint venture of TDC and the Rockefeller Group Development Corp. to develop a five-acre site currently occupied by Municipal Parking Lot 1 in Flushing. It will contain a 1.5-acre town square, a 500-unit condominium, 35,000 square feet of retail, a new YMCA, a hotel and a 1,600-space underground parking facility.

Meyer calls the CB7 approval “an extraordinary win for the community. As one of the speakers at the CB7 meeting said the other day, we’ll be bringing Flushing into the 21st century. This is a really unique and vibrant community, not just in New York City but in the entire United States, and Flushing deserves to have this level of quality and this type of open space and mixed-use space.”

Although the Flushing Commons plan got the nod in 2005 from area politicians—including then-Councilman John Liu, now the city’s comptroller—over two other proposals, it faced years of delays. These included community concerns over traffic congestion and the project’s impact on local merchants, along with issues related to an adjacent 140-unit affordable housing development, Macedonia Plaza, sponsored by the Macedonian African Methodist Episcopal Church. Eighteen months ago, Flushing Commons was reportedly on the verge of beginning the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure process, but the review didn’t actually get under way until late January of this year.

Several of the concerns were addressed in a letter last month to a special CB7 committee reviewing the project by Robert Lieber, deputy mayor for economic development, says Meyer. “It was on the basis of the letter that the committee voted to approve and they added some stipulations of their own.”

He adds that not all of the committee’s stipulations stemmed from Flushing Commons itself, and that some of CB7′s concerns will need to be addressed by the city rather than the project JV. Some of the stipulations, according to published reports, do involve the developers, including a call for them to make direct reinvestment in downtown Flushing’s infrastructure.

In a March 22 CB7 hearing, Meyer sought to assuage local business owners’ misgivings. “We will in no way affect the shops along Union Street,” Meyer reportedly said. “Every single business in Flushing is important and we will go to any lengths to ensure that those shops are kept open and are well accessible.”

Queens Borough president Helen Marshall is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the project on April 20, according to published reports. Under the normal seven-month timetable of the ULURP process, Meyer says he expects the project to come before the City Council by mid-August. He says he expects construction to begin sometime in 2011 and finish in 2013.

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