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Firm plans shops, offices for bank site on Main St.

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In what some have called a premature unveiling, Michael Lee of F&T International announced a plan last Thursday to tear down the Queens County Savings Bank in downtown Flushing and replace it with a large retail, restaurant, office and civic center.

The proposed multi-story complex would require some redrafting since the site’s adjacent Municipal Parking Lot on Union Street Monday sought proposals from developers who want to submit plans to the city for potential development of that plot.

“This is the very beginning of the process,” Wellington Chen, a consultant to F&T International, said Monday. “It’s a little bit premature.”

Lee announced the plan for the Queens County Savings Bank site on Main Street at his company’s Lunar New Year’s celebration at Gum Fung restaurant, which drew a crowd of more than 300 people. The proposal has yet to go before Community Board 7 or any other decision-making body.

“Our plan is to have a mixed-use development with parking, retail, food court, office and community facilities,” Kevin McGrath, attorney for F&T said. F&T, a Flushing-based developer, has built Sanford Tower, the Flushing Mall and Prince Center in downtown Flushing.

McGrath said F&T will approach the community board and elected officials to discuss the design and composition of the new facility, which currently bears the name Queens Crossing.

“Instead of an assemblage of communities of China Town, Korean Town, Indian Village, we see Flushing as a stage shared by all races and cultures,” Lee and his partner, Sunny Chiu, said in a letter to their guests. “That is why we didn’t allow our Queens Crossing project to become another ‘chop chop’ development.”

They hope the project, which McGrath described as a “glass dream,” becomes a centerpiece for downtown Flushing.

A spokeswoman from the Rockefeller Group, which is considering working with F&T on other development projects in downtown Flushing, said the Queens Crossing project announcement came as a surprise to them.

She would not disclose what other development in Flushing the Rockefeller Group might potentially invest in.

Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said he was unaware of F&T’s plans until the party. He said he has mixed feelings about the potential demolition of Queens County Savings Bank.

“That is a building that’s part of the Flushing landscape for decades,” Liu said. “On the other hand, the Queens County Savings Bank decided to leave us so that doesn’t leave a lot of choice as to what to do with the building.”

He said Lee and Chiu have often had what he termed “grand visions” for downtown Flushing.

“I applaud them — anybody who has some kind of vision,” Liu said.

Chen said F&T may consider putting out a proposal for the parking lot.

“We’re evaluating,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to do something right.”

He said the development of downtown Flushing has been piecemeal and he hopes to see this change in the future.

“We have such a hodgepodge of slice-and-dice,” Chen said. “How do we make it whole again?”

He said the corner of the municipal lot touches the Queens Crossing project and that the architects from Queens Crossing are re-examining their designs to accommodate potential development there.

Chen said ideally he would like to see more large chain stores in downtown Flushing.

“The struggle has been how to have the national retailers return to downtown Flushing,” he said. “Our challenge is how to draw the Borders of the world —the Barnes & Nobles — to downtown Flushing.”

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:02 pm, October 10, 2011
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