The plans for developing Willets Point showed signs of moving forward Friday when the city Economic Development Corp. announced it had received 29 responses from developers or teams of developers interested in redeveloping the 62-acre tract next to Citi Field.
The EDC sent a request for qualifications out earlier this year in order to gauge interest in the project, and now officials will develop a shortlist of developers from the list of 29 respondents who will receive requests for proposals when that time comes.
“What this was was a request for qualifications, which is only a statement of their qualifications to develop the project,” said EDC spokeswoman Janel Patterson. “They were from some of the major developers across the U.S., developers of mixed-use, residential and commercial projects.”
The strong showing indicates the economic downturn has not stopped construction and development companies from being interested in the project, according to the EDC.
“The quantity and quality of these responses are strong indicators that the development community has confidence in the successful redevelopment of Willets Point despite current economic conditions,” EDC President Seth Pinsky said in a statement. “These developers are clearly eager to play a role in this important project, which will create the city’s first ‘green neighborhood’ with over 5,500 residential units, creating more than 5,300 permanent jobs and 18,000 construction jobs.”
A request for proposals is expected to be issued in 2010 seeking the shortlisters’ proposals for the development of the southwest 18 acres of the site, where a maximum of 980,000 square feet of destination and entertainment retail, 2,000 units of mixed-income housing, 500,000 square feet of office space, 400 hotel rooms, a school, open space and parking are planned.
About 75 percent of the land in question is currently under city control through agreements with property owners, according to the EDC, which said it is in negotiations to acquire remaining lots and is currently planning to relocate five business owners to College Point.
“We are very actively working with the property owners to acquire through fair negotiations the remaining property,” Patterson said. “Our preference since the beginning of this process has been to acquire the property through fair negotiations.”
The Willets Point Industry and Real Estate Association, a coalition of property owners trying to protect their land from being developed, hit a major setback last month when a judge threw out their lawsuit against the city.
Brooklyn Federal Court Judge Edward Korman dismissed the suit, which alleged that over the past 40 years city officials had refused to provide essential services to the Willets Point properties in hopes of later acquiring them cheaply, on the basis that the claim could not be substantiated and that it is not an appropriate issue for federal courts to be involved in.
The plaintiffs are now looking at whether to appeal the decision.
Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cn
©2009 Community News Group
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