Downtown Flushing’s congestion and lack of parking will get even worse next month when the Macedonia AME Church begins constructing its 14-story affordable housing development in Municipal Parking Lot 1.
The 14-story, 143-unit building, known as Macedonia Plaza, will be built next to the church on Union Street and 37th Avenue. Work is expected to begin in mid-April and continue for two years.
Details of the $45 million project were given last Thursday at a meeting of Community Board 7’s district service cabinet, held at the Queens Botanical Garden in Flushing. The Rev. Richard McEachern, Macedonia’s minister, said the church and its L-shaped housing facility will be connected through landscaping.
“The intent was for Flushing Commons to start first, but Macedonia Plaza is going first,” McEachern said.
The pastor was referring to the $800 million mixed-use project that calls for housing, a hotel, retail, open space and underground parking for about 1,600 cars to replace the rest of the municipal parking lot. But developer Michael Meyer, president of TDC Development, which is building the project, has said that his firm is still looking for financing before work can begin.
The Macedonia plans call for a combination of studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, with 7,200 square feet of retail space on the first level facing 37th Avenue. The congregation would like to put a day care center in as a community facility there as well.
Church officials were able to get a parking waiver from the city and not provide any. The project would have required 37 parking slots, but Macedonia spokesmen said most of the tenants are not expected to have cars, and those who do might be able to pay for parking in Flushing Commons’ underground lot.
CB 7 officials were concerned about the issue during the public review process, fearing it would add to the lack of parking in the downtown area, but were overridden by the city.
Geoff Flournoy, managing partner of BRP Companies, which is building Macedonia Plaza, said a construction fence will go around the church as well as the construction site soon and that police cars from the 109th Precinct, which used to park there, have been moved to the parking lot ramp.
A pedestrian walkway will be created in the street on 37th Avenue with Jersey barriers, but the sidewalk on Union Street will remain open.
“We are excited about the project,” Flournoy said. “It’s been a long time in planning, five years.”
Participants at the cabinet meeting, including CB 7 Chairman Gene Kelty and Vice Chairman Chuck Apelian, expressed concern about truck traffic from the project accessing roads to get out of the downtown area. They pointed out that many of the streets are narrow and that it would be impossible to turn onto Main Street from 37th Avenue.
Maura McCarthy, Queens borough commissioner of the Department of Transportation, attended the session and said the trucks can take major streets, but that she needs to see proposals from the developer before voicing an opinion on routes.
It was also suggested to the church and BRP Companies that they set up a complaint number for speakers in Korean and Chinese as well as English. McEachern said he would work out a coordinated effort to make everyone happy.
Plans call for Macedonia Plaza management to use a lottery for prospective tenants with set-asides of 5 percent for municipal workers, 7 percent for the disabled and 50 percent for those from the CB 7 area. It will be advertised six months before completion.