When the Jamaica Plan rezoning was passed by City Council in 2007, the intention was to spur residential and commercial development in what was once Queens’ primary business district. The downtown area was upzoned to allow greater development, while redevelopment in the more residential areas around it was all but forbidden.
The reality was quite different from the goal, though. Small-scale infill construction that was already happening, mostly just east of downtown Jamaica, was indeed stifled by the “contextual” rezoning. But it was not made up for by development in the upzoned downtown area – the choicest blocks are in many cases still held as surface parking lots by the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, and the others haven’t found financing.
More than 350 market-rate units were built in the downzoned area of the Jamaica Plan between 2004 and 2008, when the permits ran out. In the upzoned area, on the other hand, no market-rate housing developers have taken advantage of the extra allowed density.
While development in the downzoned areas will never return, the silver lining is that the upzoned part of downtown Jamaica is finally starting to show signs of life. Budget hotel growth has already been happening, and now residential appears to be starting as well.
On the northern edge of downtown Jamaica, at the border with Briarwood, a Flushing-based developer has filed for permits to build two buildings, one commercial, and the other residential. At 148-46 Hillside Avenue, a five-story, 20,161-square foot building divided between commercial and community space would rise. At 148-37 88th Avenue, a more substantial residential building would be built, with 120 units spread over 123,038 square feet and eight stories.
The land was purchased by the developer in May for $5.42 million, more than the $4.35 million that the previous owner paid for it in 2006, at the peak of the last market cycle. Raymond Chan, who works primarily in New York City’s Chinese neighborhoods, is the architect of record.
The person who picked up the phone at the office of the developer, George Xu, stressed that the project is still in its incipient stages, and that demolition permits have not yet been filed. But if the building goes forward, 148-37 88th Avenue could be Jamaica’s first big new market-rate residential project to go vertical since the rezoning.
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