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Downtown Jamaica

Downtown Jamaica Overview

Downtown Jamaica offers a tremendous mix of assets that make it a vibrant urban center. Best known as an established transit hub, the neighborhood boasts easy access to Manhattan, Long Island, and Downtown Brooklyn via nine LIRR lines, four subway lines, and fourteen bus lines. Downtown Jamaica is also considered a gateway to the world, as it is just an eight-minute rail ride from JFK International Airport since the 2003 opening of the $350-million AirTrain Terminal. The City’s investment in Jamaica has led to new housing, retail, and commercial projects which, over the next five years, will result in approximately 3,000 new housing units, 500,000 square feet of retail space, and 800 hotel rooms. 

With bustling commercial corridors like Jamaica Avenue offering a variety of fashionable retail, performing arts venues, and anchor institutions such as CUNY York College, Downtown Jamaica provides far more than a strong transportation network. More than 150,000 people call this area home and over 60,000 people work in the downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods. Already, over 300,000 people pass through the downtown on a daily basis—with continued investment, this number can only be expected to grow.

On April 15, 2015, the City will release the Jamaica Now Action Plan, a culmination of a nine month community-wide engagement process consisting of over 30 meetings between residents, businesses, leaders and other stakeholders, and two public conferences. The Jamaica Now Action Plan outlines 21 strategic actions for the revitalization and growth of Jamaica, Queens into a thriving residential and commercial neighborhood. The 21 strategic actions, 16 of which will be launched and implemented in the next three years, represent approximately $153 million in current public funding. 

Timeline

2003Completion of the Air-Train Terminal
2007Jamaica Rezoning
2010MODA Project
2015Release of Jamaica Action Plan

New Developments/Projects

MODA

Moda is a mixed-use development located on 89th Ave between Parsons Blvd and 153rd Street. In 2006, NYCEDC sold the site to the Dermot Company, which restored the façade of the former Queens Family Courthouse to create a complex that includes 346 rental units, 20,000 sq. ft. of vacant community space, and 50,000 sq. ft. of retail space including a supermarket and BBQ restaurant.

Station Plaza Redevelopment

To decrease traffic congestion and create a safer pedestrian environment, Archer Avenue at Sutphin Boulevard will be realigned and widened to create wider sidewalks and turning lanes for bus traffic. The project will also create new bus loading and off-loading lanes that will ease congestion. In addition, new public plazas and subway entrances will be constructed to enhance the pedestrian environment for visitors and commuters. Design is underway, and a groundbreaking is expected in 2017.

Sutphin Underpass

In Summer 2012, Greater Jamaica Development Corporation completed construction of the Sutphin Underpass project. The improvements include the creation of a more attractive street-level pedestrian experience with new lighting and 5,500 square feet of new retail space directly across the street from the Air Train Terminal. 

Atlantic Avenue Extension

The Atlantic Avenue Extension project will provide physical improvements by extending Atlantic Avenue to meet 95th Avenue, creating one-way streets on both 94th and 95th Avenues, which will ease traffic into and departing from the Station area. The project will also result in the development of 3 new public parks. Design is complete and construction is expected to begin in summer 2015.

168th Street Garage

In February 2015, NYCEDC released a Request for Proposal for the redevelopment of the 168th Street Garage, an approximately 45,000-square foot site that is currently a NYPD garage on the northeast corner of 93rd Avenue and 168th Street. The development will likely consist of mixed-income housing, retail and a community center.

Jamaica Now Action Plan

The Jamaica Now Action Plan builds on Jamaica’s historic legacy to sustain and enhance the neighborhood as a unique central business district that evolves as a livable, cultural, and attractive destination for residents and visitors. Uniting new initiatives with ongoing projects, the Action Plan seeks to address the challenges that have faced the Jamaica area in recent years by providing workforce training and small business support, initiating new mixed-use development anchored by affordable housing, and improving the livability of the neighborhood through investments in safety measures, green spaces and more. 

For more information, read the Jamaica Now Action Plan.

Office Market

Downtown Jamaica is the central business district and civic center for Southeast Queens. Thanks to a significant rezoning of 368 blocks in 2007, as well as investment in key public improvements, the neighborhood is poised for continued commercial growth, with the area around Jamaica Station targeted for high-density commercial and residential development.

Three million workers live within a 45-minute commuting distance to Downtown Jamaica, and more than 300,000 regional, national, and international travelers pass through the area each day. Healthcare and Social Assistance industries are the largest sectors and collectively employ more than 10,000 people followed by retail at nearly 4,000 jobs. The neighborhood offers over 27,000 local jobs, supports a large, young workforce with 60% of residents under 44 years old, and is home to 2,360 businesses. Other major employers include Queens Library, York College, Child Welfare Administration, Queens Supreme Court, Queens Family Court, and Queens County Civil Court. 

Retail Market

With over 100 apparel and shoe stores, 2/3 of which are local brands, Downtown Jamaica is widely considered and utilized as an urban fashion district. The neighborhood also offers an array of culinary options, such as Applebees, City Rib, and Jamaica Market. The average commercial rent is $93/sq. ft., but can be as high as $200/sq. ft., with low ground floor retail vacancy (<5%) along Jamaica Ave. In addition to Jamaica Avenue, which has a similar pedestrian count to 34th Street in Manhattan, major nodes include Sutphin Boulevard, Parsons Boulevard, and 165th Street. Hundreds of thousands of people use Downtown Jamaica’s commercial, educational, government and transportation services on a daily basis, providing the critical mass necessary for a thriving retail community.

 Four Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) also operate in the area—the Jamaica Center BID, the 165th Street BID, 180th Street BID, and the Sutphin Boulevard BID—providing additional sanitation, security and marketing services and responding to business interests.

Residential Market

The bulk of Jamaica's housing stock consists of one- and two-family homes constructed from the 1920s to the 1960s. The median home sale price in the neighborhood between March and May of 2014 was $333,000, according to real estate website Trulia.com. That was 30% lower than the median price in all of Queens during the same time. The market outlook for overall residential rents in Downtown Jamaica is $30/sq. ft./100%AMI (based on average unite size of 720 sq. ft. and avg. monthly rent of $1860).

Arts and Culture

Downtown Jamaica has a rich cultural history and an active cultural community centered on music, food, and the arts. Once home to legendary Jazz and R&B greats, Jamaica remains a destination center for musical performances and production. It is home to the Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL), the Cultural Collaborative Jamaica (CCJ), the York College Performing Arts Center, and the newly established Jamaica Performing Arts Center (JPAC), located in a landmark building on Jamaica Avenue. Together, these institutions offer a variety of cultural and arts programs including professional performances, art exhibitions, and free concerts.

Downtown Jamaica is also home to Rufus King Park, an 11.5 acre centrally located green space equipped with soccer fields, seating, and free WiFi. The south side of the park is occupied by the King Manor, the historic house museum dedicated to preserving the legacy of Rufus King.

Infrastructure Improvements

  • Sutphin Underpass (Complete)
  • Atlantic Avenue extension (Construction to begin in Q3 2015)
  • Station Plaza Redevelopment (Construction to begin in Q1 2017)

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