Sections

EDC narrows bidders for Flushing muni lot to three

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It has been more than a year since the agency released its request for proposals, which invited developers last February to submit plans for the five-acre lot in the middle of downtown Flushing.The city has set different dates for an unveiling of potential proposals for the site, but a series of delays has kept the EDC from giving residents an idea of what could be built on the 1,100-spot parking lot between 37th and 39th streets on Union Street."The EDC's process is a bit of a mystery to me," Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) said. "They can't say who they are until the winning proposal is chosen."Liu became actively involved in the development of the municipal lot in February 2004, when he and other elected officials took a stand against a stipulation in the request for proposals that would have allowed builders to retain only 825 of the 1,100 parking spots in the lot.Officials have stood together several times in the last year to say the 1,100 spots should be preserved and should remain affordable. Civic, religious and political groups have also asked that the city require the developer to include community space in the project. All who have weighed in have requested that the money from the sale of the approximately $80 million property be reinvested in Flushing. "I strongly believe at least half of that should remain for the benefit of the people in Flushing," Liu said. "It will have to happen, one way or another, if the city wants to go ahead with the sale of this parking lot."In neighboring College Point, the EDC oversaw the development of the College Point Corporate Park alongside the defunct Flushing Airport. When the agency unveiled plans to put a wholesale business complex on the airport property last year, residents slammed the plan on the grounds that it did not include recreational space for area children who had lost out on several acres of parkland when the city took over the rebuilding of the contaminated College Point playing fields.Eventually, after several public protests, the EDC pulled the Flushing Airport business complex project.EDC spokeswoman Janel Patterson said last week that the agency had winnowed the field to three developers for the municipal lot, but said she would not name them or when an announcement would be made."We hate to put a timeframe on that," she said. "Even though we've got it down to a short list, we're still negotiationg. To keep it as competitive as possible and as fair as possible we have to do it on a confidential basis."At first, EDC officials said about 15 firms submitted potential designs for the site, a number that has since been whittled down to five and now three contenders."In economic and business terms, there's some value to having what in this case seems to be a 'blind auction,'" Liu said. "There's a theory that it might give you the best maximum yield."He said that while he does not know who the developers are, he has seen designs for the municipal lot, most of which are similar in size and scope."Suffice it to say, the EDC has dragged out this process," Liu said. "Now, if they've dragged out this process to come up with a better plan that will better accommodate the concerns of the community and provide the necessary public amenities then fine, do that. I'm in no rush."Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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