It’s been more than six months since the unveiling of the Shops at Station Plaza took place — a lighting ceremony held in June with several elected officials— to welcome the much-anticipated retail area that was supposed to draw shoppers to downtown Jamaica.
But so far, the likeliest tenant for the largest space available is Resorts World, which would be opening a “visitors center” occupying 3,000 square feet, where people could catch shuttle buses to the Aqueduct racino.
“What makes the Resorts World site a visitors center — as opposed to a bus depot — will be, in addition to the shuttle bus operation, amenities for riders and non-riders and an on-site information person with information about Jamaica and Queens in general,” said Fred Winters, a spokesman for the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., the group that is overseeing the project. Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Resorts World, could not immediately confirm pending contract talks.
Winters added that retail shopping was never a priority.
“The principal purpose was to improve infrastructure, streets, the LIRR, and to connect north and south Jamaica,” Winters said. “The shops were just available space. It’s only 5,000 square feet of retail space. That’s nothing. It’s not even enough to comprise a strip mall.”
The Shops at Station Plaza is also known as the Long Island Railroad Underpass at Sutphin Boulevard Project and is located on Sutphin Boulevard between Archer and 94th avenues under the LIRR tracks.
The LIRR must approve Resorts World’s lease on the company’s desired storefront, but the deal is otherwise fully negotiated, Winters said. Buses would transport people to the racino every 20 minutes.
The project’s $12.7 million in funding was provided by the Port Authority, with other money from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the city’s Economic Development Corp. and MTA capital funds.
The renovations, which began in fall 2009, have transformed a loading dock area in the middle of the Jamaica transit hub into a more pedestrian-friendly location, with special lighting over the street and sidewalk. There are also new commissary and service spaces, emergency generators and loading docks for the LIRR.
In the past, GJDC had mentioned renting the remaining retail space to Chashama, an arts and cultural group, and BroLab, a trio of Brooklyn artists, but that hasn’t come to fruition. Asked what the rental status for those groups are, Winters did not answer.
Winters said the delay in finding tenants is due to the time and care that’s being taken to determine that they will not interfere with the operation of the railroad above.
“When that determination is made, Greater Jamaica Development Corp. will implement the Resorts World lease and identify tenants for the other two spaces, which they believe will only be more attractive with Resorts World already there as the anchor tenant in the largest of the three sites,” Winters said. Asked what type of business could pose an LIRR interference problem, Winters did not answer.