Biz leaders try to lure restaurants to open in downtown Jamaica

Downtown Jamaica's three restaurants -- Sangria's, Applebee's and CityRib -- cater an event marketing the area's available properties to potential restaurateurs. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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Downtown Jamaica is hungry — to the tune of $428.5 million.

The area’s economic development leaders met property owners, brokers and restaurateurs Tuesday to showcase more than a dozen sites primed to house restaurants looking to tap into millions of dollars in unmet demand for dining options.

“I’m imagining you’re here because you have some interest in opening up a restaurant in a new location — maybe in Jamaica,” said Mark Lohbauer, a consultant who surveyed the shopping habits of visitors to the area.

“But, of course, you’ve got hundreds of other choices right here in the five boroughs of the city. You could go anywhere,” he added. “Why should you be thinking about coming to Jamaica?”

What is unique about downtown Jamaica, Lohbauer said, is that the Greater Jamaica Development Corp. and the Jamaica Center Business Improvement District are heavily involved in filling out the area’s ground-floor space.

“They bothered to treat their district much like a mall,” he said “and they intend to manage it much like a mall.”

Within the past year, GJDC has made deals to bring to the area a 160,000-square-foot department store and a 210-room hotel with 5,000 square feet of retail and space on the second floor for a 200-seat restaurant.

The nonprofit development corporation expects that early next year one of its partners will cut the ribbon on a 100-unit, mixed-use building with 4,500 square feet of retail space and GJDC is closed to inking a deal to bring a 410-unit project with 120,000 square feet of retail space to Archer Avenue.

The Jamaica Center BID has been active, too, organizing events like an annual fashion show and collecting data aimed at highlighting the area’s economic potential.

Yet despite the 86,000 shoppers, college students, workers and commuters who pass through the district each day — and the thousands of residents who bypass the area for those with more ample dining options — downtown Jamaica has only three sit-down restaurants: Sangria’s on Sutphin Boulevard, Applebee’s on Jamaica Avenue and CityRib on Parsons Boulevard.

Lohbauer said those surveyed rank full-service restaurants, cafés, bistros and specialty food stores as the kinds of establishments they would like to most see downtown.

Katie Mirkin, the BID’s retail development associate, highlighted a few properties that would be good for a restaurant, including a newly renovated building across from the Supreme Court with 1,200 square feet of retail space below four floors of office space.

“You kind of have that in-house clientele waiting — I’m waiting — for something of a more healthy option,” she said, showing that active management style Lohbauer spoke of earlier. “Chiptole, Panera. That’s just my own preference.”

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

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Joe Moretti from Jamaica says:
As usual all good and dandy, but first the area needs cleaned up badly and I am talking about all the trash and garbage all over the community and even in downtown (there are times it is disgusting and filthy). How can downtown Jamaica, while looking like this, attract a potential quality business here. CLEAN IT UP FOLKS, I have been saying that in my three short years here.

Sure you are losing tons of money here, the main shoppers here are the ones who tend to spend little money, they spend it on the junk and crap retail and do not dine at CityRib or Sangria (they are the McDonald or Burger King crowd). And people like me and other people who have more money to spend, do not shop at the mostly low end stores on Jamaica Avenue and with very little quality restaurants in the area, we take our money and dump it into other communities. What is so hard to understand that.

The area is putting a retail project on Jamaica Avenue between 169th St and 170th, a Planet Fitness Gym is the anchor, but what is going in the other space, a Family Dollar. NO NO NO, we do not need that, people like me and others do not shop at places like this. And for those that do, there are plenty of other dollar stores in the area and crappy retail, like Cookies, Rainbow and other junk.

While you are at it, you need to put a cap on the amount of beauty supply stores (13 just on the Ave) and cheap furniture stores. How is that possibly helping the community at all. In fact there is no doubt if there was an investigation into many of these places, there would be some shady dealings and money laundering going on, just like there is with the many "medical clinics" in the area (example: Angeldocs)

Without quality retail in downtown Jamaica, without quality restaurants (at let's not kid ourselves, AppleBee's is not quality, mediocre at best, frozen microwave food and lousy customer service, like most places in Jamaica), you will not attract the kinds of people that you are obviously looking to attract and you will continue to NOT have a night life.

Many of the people I know who live in Jamaica, the educated, the artistic, the white collar professionals, the home owners, we DO NOT shop on the AVE and we do not consider Applebee's, McDonalds or any of those other crap food places a viable option. We like places like CityRib, Sangria, Rocoto, but there are just not enough of those places and so we go into other communities (Kew Gardens, Forest Hills, Long Island City, Astoria, Brooklyn and Manhattan). The Ave, FORGET ABOUT IT.

BUT first, clean the area up once and for all or you will continue to lose money that could be pumped into Jamaica's economy and you will continue to loose potential quality businesses to other communities. It is time to get out of that "ghetto" mentality.

There is certainly a place for some of the fast food and low end retail, but that is all there is right now, you are not catering to people like me and many others who live in Jamaica or people from some of the other communities.

It is not rocket science folks.
Dec. 7, 2013, 7:43 am

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