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Jamaica AirTrain station could support hotel: Study

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A proposed 250-room hotel and conference center above the AirTrain terminal in downtown Jamaica would meet the demands of customers from the airport, business and southeast Queens communities, a hotel consultant said last week.

The combination of quick and easy access to Kennedy Airport via the AirTrain and 10,000 square feet of conference and meeting space at the hotel could make the facility a local and international business destination, said Anne Lloyd-Jones, senior vice president of HVS International.

Lloyd-Jones announced the results of the independent study at the annual meeting of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation May 14 at the new Queens Family Court on Jamaica Avenue.

The report was the first step in making a downtown Jamaica hotel a reality, and now Greater Jamaica may be ready to talk to developers this fall, said Carlisle Towery, president of the non-profit business group. The earliest the hotel might be ready to welcome guests would be in two years, Lloyd-Jones said.

The study, commissioned by Greater Jamaica, found that a full-service hotel with 250 guest rooms, a restaurant, lounge, fitness center, conference center, ballroom to accommodate 500 people and smaller meeting rooms would attract a steady clientele from the airport as well as the community, Lloyd-Jones said.

"We looked at Jamaica today, at Jamaica's history, and at where Jamaica is going," she said of the study. "Historically, downtown Jamaica has not been a destination that calls for a first-class hotel."

But with the advent of the AirTrain, Jamaica business will be tied more closely to the airport, Lloyd-Jones said. The AirTrain system would make Kennedy Airport just an eight-minute trip from downtown Jamaica. The rail service is scheduled to open this year after a fatal accident during a test run delayed the original start.

"The AirTrain is going to be a key component," Lloyd-Jones said. "It will let the hotel function in many ways as an airport hotel."

Greater Jamaica's preferred site for the facility is above the AirTrain station at Sutphin Boulevard and 94th Avenue, Towery said. That direct link to the AirTrain and Kennedy Airport may convince travelers to stay in downtown Jamaica rather than finding other transportation to another hotel.

"With the AirTrain it's the same as being on the airport," he said. "I bet getting them here will be easier than hailing a taxi or finding a shuttle."

There is enough demand from the local community and airline staff right now to support the hotel and conference center, Lloyd-Jones said. The study took into account the hotels already operating at Kennedy Airport, she said.

After about a five-year buildup, HVS expects the hotel to maintain a 72 percent capacity rate and offer rooms for about $132 a night, Lloyd-Jones said.

"We have to educate potential users that it's there and that it's an alternative," she said. "Hotels are more challenging than office space because you have to rent the rooms every night."

Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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