Retail revival waits in wings

The Blumenfeld Development Group has plans for a 160,000-square-foot building that could attract a big-box retailer to downtown Jamaica. Rendering courtesy Gentsler
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Downtown Jamaica, which at one time was the retail shopping hub of Queens and Nassau counties, may soon have a major department store that community and business leaders are hoping will return the area to its former glory.

The Greater Jamaica Development Corp. last week unveiled plans for a project that would create a 160,000-square-foot space large enough to lure a modern big box retailer to 168th Street.

“Thirty-five years ago and more, when Jamaica was the prime retail center for Queens, Brooklyn, Nassau County and beyond, we enjoyed three of what were then among the major department stores in the Northeast,” Greater Jamaica President Carlisle Towery said. “The return of this big format new department store, by one of the region’s foremost retail developers, is concrete evidence that Jamaica has once again turned the corner of economic recovery, retail strength and a major regional transportation hub.”

Although a retailer has not yet been identified, Greater Jamaica said the developer, the Blumenfeld Development Group, has a strong track record of attracting big names such as Target and Costco.

At its height during the post-war years, Jamaica boasted three major department stores: Mays, Gertz and the first Macy’s store outside Manhattan in what is now the Jamaica Colosseum Mall.

But socioeconomic factors led to the overall decline of the shopping district, and by the late 1970s all three retail giants had left.

Efforts such as the Jamaica Center Business Improvement’s fashion show, which returns for a second year June 1 at the Jamaica Performing Arts Center, have tried to dispel negative perceptions of the area and rebrand it as a destination that will draw shoppers from all over the metropolitan area.

The Blumenfeld Development Group, which has not yet signed a lease for the new construction, hopes to capitalize on the district’s potential, which is driven in part by a high degree of connectivity through several subway lines and the Long Island Rail Road.

“There is enormous economic potential in the Jamaica business district and we are enthusiastic about the opportunity to participate in the community’s growth,” partner David Blumenfeld said.

Greater Jamaica said the project will create a parking garage with capacity for 500-plus spots and the $50 million project will create 180 jobs during construction as well as 400 permanent jobs.

U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) played a role in bringing the two business partners together, and he said more downtown development news is on the way.

“Thanks in no small part to Greater Jamaica, the downtown has once again become a vital center of retail, civic institutions and culture,” he said. “In partnership with all levels of government, including my office, Greater Jamaica has stayed the course and been part of almost every significant advance in the downtown area over the last four decades.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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Reader Feedback

Latoya Valentine from Jamaica Queens says:
I would love a Target or a Walmart on Jamaica Avenue. It would be very convenient and should bring in a lot of business. More people would shop there not only on the weekends but before and after work during the week since Jamaica Avenue is a hub of public transportation to and from various area's in Queens, Nassau and even Brooklyn.
May 19, 2013, 4:16 pm

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