Jamaica Sees Historic Investment

14 Jamaica 1

Assemblyman William Scarborough (left) praised the efforts of Greater Jamaica in helping to bring the largest private investment in Jamaica in decades. Carlisle Towery (right), president of Greater Jamaica, was brought to tears while reflecting on the 12 years it took to bring the historic development to the area.

BY NATALIA KOZIKOWSKA
Staff Writer

Last week, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) joined members of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation to announce the largest private investment in Jamaica in decades.

BRP Companies, a minority-owned developer, will build a 400-unit mixed-income housing complex near the Jamaica Air Train station. The $225 million project will also feature at least 80,000-square-feet of commercial space and retail space.

The 26-story development, which is expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2015, will be built at the corner of Archer Avenue and Sutphin Boulevard on six parcels of land that BRP Companies purchased from GJDC.
The project site is located just feet away from the biggest transit hub in Queens, where 10 lines of the Long Island Rail Road, two subway lines and dozens of buses meet. Residents of the new building will be just eight minutes from John F. Kennedy Airport and just 22 minutes away from Penn Station in Manhattan.

“[This project] makes the most of our unique assets, particularly its proximity and connection to JFK Airport and the access right across the street to the Air Train and the vast transportation infrastructure already in place here,” Meeks said.

Looking To The Future

In his congratulatory speech, the Congressman touted the efforts of the GJDC, which has been working to bring the development to the transit-oriented area for more than a decade.

“It has taken them over 12 years since Carlisle [Towery, GJDC president] and the team had this vision. They recognized the value of a transit development in the station area,” he said. “Many times we had false hopes. We would stop and we would go. Sometimes people thought nothing would happen.”

Despite the delay, Meeks said he is hopeful that the project will enhance retail opportunities and further revitalize Jamaica.

“This is only the beginning folks – the beginning of a new day in Downtown Jamaica,” he said. “These, along with the projects being developed …., we believe is the catalyst for a wave of development that is not only coming – it’s here in Downtown Jamaica. We are making Jamaica Exhibit A for Mayor [Bill] de Blasio for development.”

Assemblyman William Scarborough (D-Jamaica), who was also on hand for the celebration, echoed Meeks’ sentiments.

“To see this come together is just wonderful,” he said. “This is a journey – not a destination. We are on the path to making Jamaica the greatest place that you can come to in Queens, and even the City of New York.”

Community partners similarly lauded the investment as a major step in the revitalization of the community.

“We congratulate Greater Jamaica on another positive step forward in the continuing revitalization of the home of the LIRR’s headquarters and most important hub station. It serves as a gateway for so many domestic and international travelers who use Air Train,” said LIRR president Helena Williams in a statement. “The LIRR remains committed to working with Greater Jamaica to benefit an area that is key for our customers and for the City of New York.”

Building Amenities

According to Meredith Marshall, managing partner and co-founder of BRP Companies, at least one quarter of the units will be set aside for affordable housing, but the figures are subject to change.

Marshall also revealed that BRP will aim to construct a “green” building, which will feature solar-powered elements. The project is scheduled for completion sometime in 2017 – two years after it breaks ground.

Other highlighted amenities include underground parking, a 24-hour doorman and a fitness center.

“We’ll do right by you all with this development. Our team is ready to go and we are going to hire the best and the brightest,” Marshall said. “We think that this could be our best project. If you look at all of these boroughs, Queens is the largest borough and has a diverse population and it has all the economic demographic stats that you would want as a development company.”

The Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group is working with GJDC and BRP Companies to provide financing for the development.

“We are pleased to work with the team to bring this important transit-oriented development to Queens, which will provide quality mixed-income housing and retail to an area that is in great need of investment,” said Diana Powell, head of Goldman Sachs, in a statement. “We have seen firsthand that strong-public private partnerships are an essential tool to further revitalize communities with job opportunities and neighborhood amenities.”

One Of Many

The new mixed-housing, mixed-use project is just one of many that will be coming to the Downtown Jamaica area in the coming years.

Last January, GJDC and The Bluestone Organization began construction on the 161st Street mixed-income housing apartments in Jamaica. The building, which will also include retail space, is expected to generate over $30 million in local economic activity and construct 100 affordable homes for families and individuals.

The apartments, which will be named Norman Towers, will consist of 100 units in two nine-story elevator-serviced towers built over a connecting cellar. There will be a total of seven studios, 72 one-bedroom apartments and 21 two-bedroom apartments. Other amenities will include a bicycle room and parking.

In May of last year, GJDC announced that it will be pairing up with Blumenfeld Development Group to transform two parking lots on Jamaica Avenue into a large modern retail space.

The announcement marked the first time that Jamaica could potentially see a new department store in more than 35 years. In the 1970s and 1980s, big-box retailers left Jamaica Avenue and moved to suburban areas where business was more profitable.

GJDC has also been instrumental in spearheading Jamaica’s Brownfield Opportunity Areas project. The project supports aggressive marketing strategy to attract private investment for the redevelopment of the Jamaica Station Area. It also supports preliminary design studies for infrastructure improvements, focusing on enhancing pedestrian and vehicular routes leading into Station Area.

Other beautification projects included; Station Plaza, which will create new subway entrances, canopies, and a roadway realignment which would widen the sidewalks; the Atlantic Avenue extension, which will construct a new street, linking Atlantic Avenue with 95th Avenue and; the rehabilitation of the Long Island Railroad underpass.

For more information about the projects of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, visit www.gjdc.org.

Reach Natalia Kozikowska at nkozikowska@queenspress.com or @nkozikowska.