QUEENS — Jamaica, once an overlooked and crime-ridden area in Southeast Queens, has been undergoing a transformation into a vibrant neighborhood, with a slew of new upscale apartment buildings, hotels and stores.
One of them, set to be built next to the AirTrain station, is the 580-unit luxury complex called The Crossing, which will have roof terraces and a 24-hour doorman among other amenities.
“It is gratifying to see so many projects in various stages of development taking advantage of Downtown Jamaica’s unparalleled transportation and other assets,” said Carlisle Towery, president of the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, a local nonprofit group that has worked for decades to bring new investments to the neighborhood.
Jamaica, which is only minutes from the airport, has become a major transportation hub, ever since JFK’s AirTrain station opened there in 2003.
Since then a number of hotels have been built in the neighborhood.
And two major projects will soon alter the area located directly across the street from the AirTrain and Long Island Rail Road station.
And The Crossing will feature more than 100,000 square feet of retail space. It is the largest private investment in Downtown Jamaica in decades, according to Greater Jamaica Development Corporation.
“Things are getting better every day for those who work, live, visit or play in what more and more investors see as a strong and vibrant center,” Towery noted.
The construction of Moda, a 12-story apartment building, which opened in 2010, introduced new levels of amenities in residential buildings in Jamaica, by offering a 24/7 concierge, two rooftop decks, a gym and a lounge with free Wi-Fi.
But efforts to attract a department store to the neighborhood are often seen as perhaps the most significant sign of improvement.
Jamaica, once the shopping hub for much of Queens and Long Island, used to be home to three department stores — Macy’s, Mays and Gertz. But all of them closed in the 1970s.
Now, the Blumenfeld Development Group is planning to convert two parking lots on 168th Street, near 90th Avenue, into a massive 160,000-square-foot retail store and a 550-space parking garage.
Other developers showing interest in the area include The Chetrit Group, which owns the shuttered Mary Immaculate Hospital and is considering turning the building into market-rate housing, according to Jamaica officials.
And United American Land, which owns three buildings on Jamaica Avenue, between Union Hall and 160th streets, is planning to turn them into retail space.
Locals said they hope recent changes will also bring more retail options, while keeping the neighborhood affordable.
“I hope that [Jamaica] will become more vibrant," Yvonne Reddick, district manager for Community Board 12. "But hopefully we’ll get more quality stores,” she said, adding that currently the neighborhood is filled with numerous fast-food restaurants and 99-cent stores.
At the same time, she said, the neighborhood needs more affordable housing and services.
“Jamaica is growing, and we are getting all these additional people, but we are not getting additional services,” she said. “You have to be able to meet the needs of the community."
Here are some of the major developments in Jamaica that have recently been completed or are planned for the near future:
The 12-story building, at 153-30 89th Ave., opened in 2010. It was one of the first developments in the neighborhood to feature numerous "Manhattan-style" amenities, including a 24/7 concierge, a gym, two roof decks and a lounge with free Wi-Fi. Moda, built by The Dermot Company, contains 346 units, including low-income, middle-income and market-rate apartments.
► Norman Towers
Two buildings, constructed by The Bluestone Organization at 90-11 160th St. and 90-14 161st St., boast about 100 affordable apartments, which are expected to be fully occupied before the end of the year. Retail space on the ground floor will include a restaurant and medical office.
► Hilton Garden Inn
The hotel, at 93-43 Sutphin Blvd., will be located directly across the street from the AirTrain and Long Island Rail Road station. The 24-story building, a project of Able Hotels, will bring 210 new rooms to the area. The $35 million project will also have a sit-down restaurant and a business center. Groundbreaking is expected to take place sometime next summer.
► The Crossing
The development, at 93-01 Sutphin Blvd., near the AirTrain and Long Island Rail Road station, will consist of two towers: One will be 25 stories, the other 14 stories. They will boast 580 mixed-income apartments, including affordable housing units, and more than 100,000 square feet of retail space, according to BRP Companies, which is developing the property. The $225 million project will feature a number of amenities, including a 24-hour doorman, children's play room and roof terraces. Groundbreaking is expected to take place in the second quarter of 2015.
► Department store planned by the Blumenfeld Development Group
The project, at 90-02 168th St., near 90th Avenue, will include a 160,000-square-foot retail store and a 550-space parking garage. It will be the first major department store in the neighborhood in more than three decades. Groundbreaking is expected to take place after completing the city review process.