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After more than 30 years without a theater to call their own, southeast Queens moviegoers will finally have a new theater starting next week to see this summers blockbusters.
The Jamaica Multiplex, a 15-screen theater in Jamaica Center, 159-02 Jamaica Avenue at Parsons Boulevard opens May 16, said Jennifer Hanson, spokeswoman for National Amusements, the theater operator.
The 411,000-square-foot Jamaica Center will also include a 400-spot parking garage and national retailers such as The Gap, Old Navy, Walgreens, and Bally Total Fitness. The stores are scheduled to open throughout May.
The project is expected to bring 350 jobs to downtown Jamaica, and the centers tenants have been trying to hire residents. Both Old Navy and Jamaica Multiplex held job fairs and although neither would say how many people they planned to hire, the businesses said public response was overwhelming.
Old Navy alone received more than 8,000 applications over a four-day period, said Shamond Faison, the stores division manager. Interviews will be set up during the next two weeks and the store plans to open May 21, he said.
The job fair was not widely advertised because Old Navy wanted to attract residents from the immediate area before opening it to people who live elsewhere, Faison said.
We like to give the people in the community the first shot, he said. Old Navy tries to be very involved with the community.
Jamaica has not had a movie theater since the 1970s and as a result the downtown area has not been able to attract restaurants and other recreational outlets for evening entertainment. Tax dollars that should have been destined for Queens have been drawn across the border into Nassau County, where Green Acres and other malls have multiplexes and extensive shopping areas.
The center will be the home of the second National Amusement theater in Queens, Hanson said. The other is in College Point, she said. The company broke ground for the Jamaica theater in June 2000, and it is eager to dim the lights and roll the films, Hanson said.
Our new location has all the makings of something great, she said. We look forward to opening our doors and being a part of the community.
The center is in the middle of the mile-long business district of Jamaica Avenue, near the Long Island Rail Roads Jamaica station and the E, J, and Z subway lines.
Starting next spring, the AirTrain light-rail system linking Jamaica to John F. Kennedy International Airport will also be running. All the transportation coming into Jamaica bodes well for downtown and Jamaica Center, Hanson said.
Local leaders are waiting for the project to begin drawing more people to the area, said Janet Barkan, executive director of the Jamaica Center Improvement Association.
We truly believe its going to be a shot in arm and improve the area greatly, she said. Its going to attract people who normally dont come to Jamaica who will come to the area to see a movie and hopefully see the area in a new light.
Jamaica Center has been in the works for about six years, said Joseph Mattone Sr., of the Mattone Group, the Whitestone-based developers behind the project. The delay was due in part to complications securing financing and signing on national retailers as tenants, he said.
There were a lot of parts that had to fit before we could stick a shovel in the ground, Mattone said.
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2002 Community Newspaper Group
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