Civic leaders reacted with skepticism after the city announced Tuesday that Flushing Commons will be built in two phases beginning this fall.
Developers of the long-stalled, mixed-use development are expected to break ground on the project in November, according to the city Economic Development Corp.
The $850 million project has been slated to rise over Municipal Lot 1 ever since a special permit was approved in 2010. But the major players — EDC, TDC Development and Construction Corporation and Rockefeller Development Group — left the parking lot untouched for years with virtually no explanation until this week.
The first phase of the project will include the two community benefits outlined in the original proposal — a 1.5-acre public open space and a 62,000-square-foot YMCA. It will also feature most of the total proposed commercial space, about 350,000 square feet, and about one-third of the housing, or 160 units.
Neither EDC nor the developers had a projected start date for phase two, which includes 450 residential units, 150,000 square feet of parking and 15,000 square feet of community facility space — a zoning designation that allows specific uses that would benefit residents, but is often sought by developers because it can allow slightly bigger buildings.
Because only the southern half of the parking lot will be developed first, the city and TDC maintain that no parking will be lost during the construction process.
EDC hoped that this would assuage the fears of nearby business owners like Ikhwan Rim, president of the Union Street Merchants Association.
But Rim said he was disappointed that EDC did not reach out to the entrepreneurs in the area before announcing the phasing of the project, and reiterated fears that the construction will negatively impact their bottom line.
The city explained the years-long delay as time spent contemplating how to lessen the impacts of the project.
“The new plan, which will maintain all existing parking spaces during construction, is the culmination of years of work to address community concerns,” said Seth Pinsky, president of EDC, who also touted the thousands of jobs that the project is projected to create.
Yet the city’s news release makes no mention of the fund-raising troubles that Meyer has attributed to the project’s inability to get off the ground, and of his trips to major Asian cities to try and drum up monetary support.
Theoretically, the phasing could benefit the developers if they did not raise enough money to build the whole thing but wanted to start the project anyway, according to land use lawyer Michael Gerard. There are any number of explanations, he said, including the possibility that the city wants to delay the housing component to see how the market performs.
Community Board 7 Chairman Gene Kelty said he would not judge the project until he sees exactly which stores will go in the commercial space and what type of housing will be built. He hopes that EDC and the developers will give the board a briefing.
“They are going to have to show me something on paper,” he said.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2013 Community News Group
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