A hospitality haven is rapidly rising at the northern fringe of Long Island City, in an area that overlaps into Dutch Kills to the east and Ravenswood to the west. Despite its convenient location just minutes away from Midtown via subway, the neighborhood north of Queens Plaza was largely ignored by the city and developers for most of the 20th century. During that time, local street character ranged from quiet residential enclaves to fenced-off commercial and industrial facilities to seedy, crime-ridden nooks that the casual visitor best stay away from. Since Long Island City has become one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods, a dozen hotels sprung up within its northern portion, with several more currently in progress. Upon completion, the 10-story one at 29-12 40th Avenue, which will be run by a yet-to-be-announced operator, would bring 75 rooms to the booming neighborhood.
Permits indicate that the 50-foot-wide structure will stand 105-feet-tall and encompass a total of 32,917 square feet. Of those, 26,727 are counted as usable commercial space, fitting within a floor-to-area ratio of 4.97. The rear of the property will feature a 30-foot yard. Yan Po Zhu of Flushing-based 29-12 LIC LLC is listed as the owner, with Green Citi Management serving as the general contractor.
The project occupies a 5,374-square-foot, mid-block lot on the south side of 40th Avenue. At this point, the quirky, angled street grid of central Long Island City merges with the standard rectangular layout of the blocks to the north. The block-long run of 40th Avenue, between Northern Boulevard to the east and 29th Street to the west, runs at a slight angle in relation to the main grid. Its relatively steep slope is uncharacteristic to the neighborhood, as is its cobblestone pavement. The combination gives the block a distinct flair, with San Francisco overtones mixing with old-school industrial charm of the East Coast.
Perhaps “industrial charm” is a euphemistic way to describe the grimy stretch. The surviving pre-war warehouses have seen better days, their articulated brick walls run-down and soot-covered. In 2014, a hulking storage facility was erected at the end of the block. It is hard to tell which of its street-facing conditions is less appealing: where the garish, brightly-colored corrugated metal façade touches upon the ground, or where it rises to expose an open-air parking lot. Sitting beneath the building raised upon steel stilts, the lot is even gloomier than the stretch of Northern Boulevard overshadowed by the elevated N/Q train, which runs next door. By comparison, the 12-story storage facility on the other side of the el, completed last year, is downright handsome, at least by the standards of its peers. The building, which visually caps the 40th Avenue viewshed, is colored in a much more agreeable hue of sheet metal. Its front elevation, adorned window bays that sit atop a two-story brick base, resembles a conventional high-rise slightly more than it does a shipping container.
So far, the description may mislead the reader into thinking that the new hotel is a pioneer on a warehouse row. On the contrary, the property shares the block with three other hotels, all built within the past ten years. The six-story Verve Hotel rose next to the 29-12 40th Ave site in 2007. The similarly-sized Quality Inn on the other side of the street at 30-03 40th Avenue was completed slightly earlier. And though the bulk of the 14-story Fairfield Inn stands on 40th Road one block south, its rear access lane connects to 40th Avenue to the north. Despite their plain appearance, credit must be given to the designers for at least attempting to reference existing context, whether with their color schemes or brick cladding. The Verve and Quality Inn maintain the street wall. Their minimal cornices and jagged, angled facades engage in a hushed architectural dialogue akin to the similarly zig-zagging duo currently rising in Bushwick, Brooklyn.
The hotel rising at 29-12 40th Ave is designed by Micheal Kang. Its architectural language echoes the architect’s own hospitality portfolio (which includes a few works in the neighborhood, such as 40-47 22nd Street). Unlike its neighbors, 29-12 40th Avenue is set back from the sidewalk, breaking the street wall. Though this layout is a departure from the original design, the new plan is generally a positive upgrade. The garish, vertical red stripes have been switched with more muted, context-appropriate beige and brown. The ground level addresses the street with floor-to-ceiling glass, as well as the entrance bay for the building’s single parking space.
In the past, the site housed a pair of two-story rowhomes clad in dark wooden shingles. After their demolition around 2008, the land was put up for lease, then for sale. Development was announced in 2014, and the first steel beams rose above ground level by the middle of that year. After a rapid start, the pace of construction slowed considerably. Only one-half of the first floor was erected between August and October. The fifth story was underway by November 2015; the seventh is under construction at the time of this writing.
Despite its relatively modest height, the building would become the tallest on all of 40th Avenue. Together with Fairfield Inn on the other side of the block, the duo would be a part of the local mid-rise cluster that transitions the taller buildings to the southwest to the lower profile of the area to the north and east. 40th Ave would boast unobstructed skyline views of Court Square and Midtown from the south-facing, rear windows, at least until the lots to the south are eventually redeveloped.
The rooms sitting by the front, north-facing facade would look upon Ravenswood and Astoria, where rowhomes and parking lots steadily make way for mid-rise hotels and apartments. A sprawling, ten-story residential complex rises at 30-17 40th Avenue half a block up. The structure’s block-wide bulk would block a long stretch of the el from sight.
The nearest station on the el, 39 Av, sits just a block-and-a-half north. Queens Plaza, serviced by the E, M, and R trains, is located a few blocks south. The Queensboro Plaza hub, connecting the N, Q, and 7 trains, stands at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge a short walk to the southwest. While hotel operators would almost certainly hype up the proximity to Manhattan, the local neighborhood boasts its own attractions. Astoria, with its Kaufman Astoria Studios, the Museum of the Moving Image, and an active restaurant and nightlife scene, starts a few blocks northeast. MoMA PS1 and the Sculpture Center are the cultural destinations of the growing Court Square district to the southwest. The 43,000-square-foot, publicly-accessible Brooklyn Grange rooftop farm sits at 37-18 Northern Boulevard, 2,500 feet to the east of the rising hotel. We hope to see the growing hotel district play the role of a true gateway to the diverse borough of Queens rather than just a transit stop on the way to Manhattan.