Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Convention Center & Hotel to Break Ground Near CitiField

A spacious convention center and 25-story hotel and apartment complex will soon rise on the site of a Corona car dealership near CitiField. Fleet Financial Group plans to break ground on the $200 million project early next year. The Flushing-based group purchased the 1.67-acre DiBlasi Ford dealership, at 112-21 Northern Blvd., for $17 million in December. 

The site sits across the Grand Central Parkway from CitiField, where a $3 billion mega-mall and housing complex is planned for Willets Point.

The group plans to build 292 five-star hotel rooms and 236 apartments above the roughly 106,000-square-foot convention center.

The project will also include about 97,000 square feet of retail space, a restaurant and an underground parking garage with space for 300 cars.

“For the longest time, Queens has wanted to have some sort of facility like a Javits Center,” said developer Richard Xia, who chose the location for its close proximity to the airports. “It’s going to be great for the area.”

“This fills a great need for Queens. People fly in to Queens and leave for conventions at Javits or at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, now they won’t have to leave the borough.”

Xia is also in talks with Audi to put a showroom on an adjacent site.

The development, and in particular the conference center, should be a boon for the borough, said Queens Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Seth Bornstein. “We really lack quality convention space,” said Bornstein, who added the project will bring jobs and an influx of business travelers to Queens.

“It’s a good location for a good development. It makes more sense than the one that was planned at Aqueduct because JFK is an international airport, LaGuardia is for domestic flights and conventions are mainly domestic affairs,” he noted.

And the up-and-coming area can support the project.

The East River site is just across the Grand Central Parkway from CitiField, the USTA’s National Tennis Center and the Queens Museum in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

“The US Open is huge and you have these corporate sponsors who have no place large enough to suit their clients,” he said. “The area is under-utilized now, so the project makes sense."

And Flushing is a hotbed of Asian economic activity. Hotels like the Sheraton cater to the Chinese nouveau riche.  Xia has his eyes on an annual event that brings nearly a million visitors to the area each year.

But not everyone is a fan of all of the mega-development.

The building site is an area that has perpetual traffic problems and is undeserved by mass transit, say local activists. With so much going on in downtown Flushing and Willets Point, they don’t know if the market can support it all.

Residents of the predominantly low- and middle-income, immigrant neighborhood say they would be better served by more schools and affordable housing.

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