Monday, May 6, 2013

Construction of $850M Flushing Commons to Begin in November

Construction on the much-anticipated $850 million Flushing Commons project will finally get underway this fall.  The mixed-use development, which includes commercial, residential and community space in the heart of downtown Flushing, is scheduled to rise in two phases beginning this November. The Flushing Commons development will include a 1.5-acre town square of open space with a fountain plaza, parking for 1,600 cars, a 62,000-square-foot YMCA, about 600 residential units and 420,000 square feet of commercial and retail space. The developers — The Rockefeller Group and TDC Construction — has agreed to construct an underground garage to mitigate parking concerns and avoid the need to move public parking off the site. 

And city officials promise more than 1,000 parking spots at the current municipal parking lot will remain during the construction.

The ambitious plan to transform the 5-acre municipal parking lot into Flushing Commons was stalled several times as community leaders and elected officials squabbled with the city and developers over parking and other concerns. It was revived in 2010 and successfully navigated the city’s land use approval process.

The project, first announced over 10 years ago, is heralded by supporters including City Councilman Peter Koo as the key to revitalizing downtown Flushing. But others, including some local merchants, worry construction will add to current traffic woes and push out small businesses.

The city spent a decade eyeing the potential development of Flushing’s 5-acre Municipal Lot 1, bounded by Union Street, 39th Avenue, 138th Street and 37th Avenue. For the past two years, Flushing has waited with bated breath — and a slight dose of skepticism — for the proposed transformation of Municipal Lot 1 to actually occur. But work on Flushing Commons will finally start in November, now that the $850 million mixed-use development has been broken up into phases.

The project’s new segmented approach will minimize the impact of displaced cars that would otherwise be roaming downtown Flushing had the project been built all at once, according to Michael Meyer, president of TDC Development and Construction Corp., one half of the development group taking on the project along with The Rockefeller Group

The first phase of Flushing Commons will include 160 units of housing, 350,000 square feet of commercial use, a new 62,000-square-foot YMCA with two pools, full size gymnasium, basketball courts and an indoor running track. This phase will also include the creation of a 1.5-acre public plaza, including a fountain and amphitheater, underground parking on the northern side - to replace current spots at the Muni Lot lost to the development.

Another 450 residential units, 150,000 square feet of commercial space and 15,000 square feet of community space are planned for phase two.  “It is very important that this will be built,” said Koo, who has long championed the project. “This will make Flushing more of a destination.”

Seth Pinsky, president of the city Economic Development Corp., called the project “transformative.”

“The new plan, which will maintain all existing parking spaces during construction, is the culmination of years of work to address community concerns,” Pinsky said in a statement.

Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said the project “will provide much-needed housing, commercial space, and a recreational and community use facility.”

Koo said the project will bring much needed jobs to the area. He also negotiated with the city for a $2.25 million “business interruption program” to provide services and loans to shops impacted by construction of Flushing Commons.