With a price tag of $800 million, Flushing Commons — the project that will change the face of downtown Flushing — is ready to begin.
On Monday, the city certified the mixed-use development, starting the seven-month clock ticking on the land use public review. Builders TDC Development and the Rockefeller Group hope to begin construction next year with an expected completion in 2013.
“After a great deal of work in recent months to ensure that the Flushing Commons development plan will be an unqualified success and a positive addition to the Flushing community, we are excited and proud to be beginning the land use review process,” said Jamie Van Bramer, Flushing Commons spokesman.
The project will replace Municipal Parking Lot 1 in the five-acre area bordered by 138th and Union streets and 37th and 39th avenues. It will include up to 620 upscale condominiums, retail space, a hotel, a new home for the Flushing YMCA, 1,600 underground parking spaces and a 1.5-acre public green.
Although Van Bramer said the project is “wholly achievable within this challenging, ever-changing economic environment,” it has taken nearly five years to reach this point. Past delays have been blamed on rising construction costs and failure to reach an agreement with a nonprofit group to add a youth center there.
The Flushing Y has now agreed to take over 62,000 square feet of space that is expected to include a swimming pool, gym and other amenities.
Parking has also been an issue with area residents and merchants. Community Board 7 and elected officials wanted up to 2,000 spaces. The current lot holds 1,100 cars. “The number of parking spaces has gone down and we’re not happy about it,” said Chuck Apelian, first vice chairman of CB 7.
During earlier talks, the developers promised to provide 950 parking slots near Municipal Parking Lot 2, between 38th and 39th avenues, west of Main Street, and another site near College Point Boulevard during construction of Flushing Commons. In addition, they proposed adding a parking deck at the lot across from the Flushing Mall on 39th Avenue.
TDC, a Flushing firm, built Queens Crossing, another mixed-use facility located across the street from Flushing Commons, and is interested in redeveloping Willets Point. Michael Meyer, TDC president, noted that there is plenty of parking available at Queens Crossing.
Another contentious issue with the community has been parking rates. Officials want them to be reasonable and now the developer’s plans calls for below-market prices.
The proposed stores and restaurants will front the open space and adjacent streets and will be non-big box businesses as a way to attract shoppers east of Main Street.
The open space will feature a fountain plaza where people can gather.
The project is expected to generate 2,600 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent positions.
Also certified by the city Monday was Macedonia AME Church’s proposal to erect a 14-story building for affordable housing. The church is located on the grounds of the municipal parking lot and will remain. The proposed 140-unit housing will be adjacent to the church, although plans at this point do not call for any parking spaces.
At a recent discussion, Apelian asked church leaders to come back with more information and urged Macedonia to consider senior housing instead, since parking is not such an issue with the elderly.
CB 7 will meet on the Flushing Commons project at several sessions in February. The public hearing is expected to be held sometime in March.