By Alex Robinson

The wait for work to start on the long-delayed Flushing Commons project is over.

Developers announced the beginning of construction on the $1 billion project at a groundbreaking ceremony Monday.

“After years of hard work, ingenuity and tenacity, Flushing Commons becomes a reality,” said Michael Meyer, head of F&T Group. “But only because of the people in so many spheres who contributed.”

Meyer lauded the efforts of a number of community leaders and elected officials who contributed to the development, which was originally approved by the city in 2010.

“[This project] is a model of what public-private partnerships can accomplish,” Meyer said.

The development will transform Municipal Lot 1 at the corner of Union Street and 39th Avenue into a massive, multi-use complex which will include residential, office and retail space. It will also house a 62,000-square-foot YMCA and 1,600 parking spaces to preserve the available parking on the municipal lot.

The project stalled during the recession as funding dried up, but the partnership of developers secured $235 million from Starwood Property Trust in March to help finance the first phase of the project. The partnership includes Flushing-based F&T Group, the Rockefeller Group, AECOM Capital and Mount Kellett Capital Management LP.

“All of the consultants here today have determined that Queens is really the place to invest,” said Borough President Melinda Katz, who was chairwoman of the City Council Land Use Committee when the project was first proposed. “We want to make sure — and investors like this are making sure — that you never have to go over a bridge or under a tunnel to get a job. You can do that right here in our borough.”

A task force was recently set up by Katz to create a dialogue between developers and merchants in downtown Flushing who have concerns over how the construction might affect their business.

“I will continue addressing any concerns that my constituents may have related to the development of this site,” Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) said at the ceremony. “We will take care of those issues as they come along.”

The project will be constructed in two phases, partly due to funding, but also to minimize disruption for residents who park there and at adjacent businesses.

A section of the municipal lot will be open during the first phase, while an underground garage is built. The first phase, expected to be completed in 2017, will also have 150 units of market-rate housing and 219,000 square feet of commercial space.

“Once this project is completed, it will play a significant role in cementing Flushing’s transformation into an economic power center of Queens,” Koo said.

Reach reporter Alex Robinson by e-mail at arobinson@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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