Work finally begins on Flushing center 1

Developers, left, with elected officials including Borough President Melinda Katz, center, Councilman Peter Koo, Rep. Grace Meng, state Sen. Toby Stavisky and Assemblyman David Weprin.

Although even the developers wondered at times if the project would ever get off the ground, the first shovels were activated Monday morning to signal the start of work on the $1 billion mixed-use Flushing Commons project.

Michael Meyer, president of F & T Group, which is working with the Rockefeller Group and AECOM Capital to develop the five-acre project on the site of Municipal Parking Lot 1, told an audience of elected officials and community leaders that “it’s been a long time coming.”

Meyer said it’s been more than 12 years since talks began to develop the site and it’s been more than three years since the developers were approved by the city. Delays since then were caused by lack of funding.

The project is being divided up into two phases so as not to disrupt parking during the conversion, with 1,144 spaces being retained during construction.

The site is bounded by Union and 138th streets and 37th and 39th avenues.

Phase 1 work will involve building 219,000 square feet of office and retail space, 250 units of housing and a 982-car underground parking lot. It is being constructed on Union Street and 39th Avenue with completion scheduled for 2017.

Phase 2 construction will consist of building 24,000 square feet of office and retail space, 450 residential units, 618 additional underground parking spaces, a YMCA recreational facility and a 1.5-acre public plaza. The completion date is anticipated for 2021.

During Phase 2 work, parkers will be able to use the first underground lot or a 162-space surface lot.

“This shows what a private-public partnership can accomplish,” Meyer said of the massive undertaking.

He noted that updates on work will be posted on: flushingcommonsupdates.com.

In response to community concerns, especially the Korean stores on Union Street, Meyer said that a $2.5 million small business assistance fund has been set up by the city and its Economic Development Corp. It is being administered by Asian Americans for Equality and the city.

Borough President Melinda Katz, speaking at the groundbreaking, said the project took great teamwork. “We talked about it for a lot of years,” Katz added.

Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) said she will work to continue to partner together to make sure everyone’s needs are met.

The remaining piece of the municipal lot is being developed by the Macedonia AME Church, which recently built a 14-story, 142-unit affordable housing structure adjacent to the church.

According to the Rev. Richard McEachern, church pastor, the city is in the process of inspecting the facility and a certificate of occupancy is expected in about a month.

More than 40,000 applications were received by the city’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development. McEachern said it was an indication of how desperate people are to find affordable housing

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