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Queens Chronicle

LI developer bets on Jamaica site

Blumenfeld Group seeking anchor store for $50M downtown project

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Posted: Thursday, May 9, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 10:42 am, Thu May 16, 2013.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corporation has reached an agreement with a Long Island real estate developer on a project that is slated to bring “a big-box retail store” and a 500-space parking garage to 168th Street.

The Blumenfeld Development Group has worked on numerous projects in the city, including the transformation of the old Bulova Watch Co. complex on Astoria Boulevard in East Elmhurst into a corporate office center.

Speaking at a press conference hosted by Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) on Monday, company founder Ed Blumenfeld said his firm is planning to invest $50 million into a two-level complex, with a major retailer on the second floor and smaller stores on the first.

The shopping center will be on the southwest corner of the intersection of 90th Avenue and 168th Street, while the parking garage will go across the street on the southeast corner.

Residents and officials need not be concerned about his company’s Syosset, LI address. “I’m from Queens, and my sons were born in Jamaica Hospital,” he said. “I’m excited to be back. And we are not absentee landlords. When we come into a neighborhood, we stay.”

Meek,s too, was excited at the prospect of bringing back a major department store for the first time in about 35 years.

“This is a great day for Jamaica,” Meeks said. “This used to be the place people came to shop. The first Macy’s located outside of Manhattan was located here ... And I can still remember how disappointed my mother was when Gertz announced that they were closing.”

The congressman said Jamaica’s already-vibrant commercial corridors have an ample customer base to support far more retail and restaurant businesses, large and small.

“It’s not a question of build it and they will come,” Meeks said. “They’re already here.”

Meeks praised GJDC President Carlisle Towery and the rest of the organization’s staff for their ongoing commitment.

He said the project will require the filling of about 180 construction jobs, followed by 400 permanent jobs in the shopping center.

Blumenfeld said the firm will begin presenting its plans to major department and chain stores in the coming weeks.

Following his father, David Blumenfeld said the firm plans to do the parking garage first, so as to minimize the impact on traffic once retail construction begins.

The process for permitting and variances for the parking garage is expected to take a year to 18 months.

Meeks does not believe the project will meet with the same delays that plagued the old Kingsbridge Armory in the Bronx.

In 2009, a national developer proposed stores and shops that would bring 1,200 jobs, until Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. made demands for guarantees of so-called “living wage” pay that the developer would have to get from all retailers.

“The notion that any job is better than no job no longer applies,” Diaz said — before the developer pulled out. Diaz formed a much-ballyhooed study group whose recommendations for the site included a BMX bike facility and a church run by a southern televangelist.

Earlier this year a group headed by former New York Rangers star Mark Messier and Olympic skater Sarah Hughes agreed to bring a recreation center focusing on skating rinks to the Bronx armory — along with 200 jobs. It is projected to open in 2018.

For the Jamaica project “the developer is on board and everyone is working together,” Meeks said.

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