New developer chosen for Merkel Meat Plant site

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The development group that oversees Queens Center Mall has taken the reins of the much-delayed project at the former Merkel Meat Plant in Jamaica, but it is not clear what type of property will be built.

In January, the Manhattan-based development firm of Washington Square Partners did not renew its lease on the land at Sutphin Boulevard and 94th Avenue, where it originally intended to create a 13-story commercial space for technology goods and services, according to a representative from the firm.

Another Manhattan developer, Shopco Properties, has signed the lease on the land and any future project would be handled by them, according to the Washington Square representative.

Shopco representatives did not return several phone calls for comment before press time Tuesday.

Although it is not known what will go up at the site, community leaders said they want to have input. Yvonne Reddick, district manager of Community Board 12, said she has not met with Shopco about its plans and has been asking to do so for weeks.

The site, which is right next to the AirTrain station, was rezoned by the city nearly three years ago in a major plan to add upscale commercial properties to downtown Jamaica. Reddick said whatever goes up at the Merkel site should take advantage of the zoning and at the same time adhere to the community’s needs.

“I think a good project for that space would be retail, but even when you do retail you have to look into it and see about the parking,” she said. “I mean, that area now is just congested.”

Shopco has acquired and redeveloped several properties around the United States, according to its Web site. One of its properties is the Queens Center Mall.

Plans were initially set for a $260 million mart at the Merkel site and initial excavation began in 2007. But the plan for the 10-floor site came to a halt in the fall of 2008 after a weakened economy disrupted the funding needed to complete construction for the estimated 500 stores that would have filled the space.

Reddick said the community board, residents and other business owners have been anxiously waiting for something to take up the empty space, but are understanding of the current financial problems affecting development.

“If it weren’t for the economy, something would have been developed there now,” she said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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