Back in June, YIMBY brought you the first look at an 11-story mixed-use development planned for 137-61 Northern Boulevard, in downtown Flushing.
Now, the developer – Century Construction Group Corp., led by Chris and George Xu – has filed an application for a rezoning associated with the property, requesting permission to build more commercial space (in the form of hotel rooms) than allowed by the current code. Specifically, they want the zoning changed from R6 with a C2-2 overlay (which allows a commercial floor area ratio of two) to a C4-3 zone (which allows for a commercial FAR of 3.4).
The design, by Raymond Chan Architect, is quite tasteful and high-quality for the neighborhood, with a white façade and somewhat irregular windows broken up by glassy elements. Even condominiums in downtown Flushing often use PTACs, with developers seeking to cut costs in order to deliver units at lower price points than those in Manhattan and the tonier parts of Brooklyn and Queens. But if the renderings are accurate, this project would eschew façade-marring air conditioning in favor of either a centralized system or electric mini-splits.
The developers want to build a total of 215,000 gross square feet, or 152,000 square feet for zoning purposes. Of this, 43 apartments would be spread over 40,000 square feet, with 191 hotel rooms over 104,000 square feet. The building would have another 11,000 square feet of retail space and an 8,000-square foot community facility space (which, in downtown Flushing, generally means doctors’ offices).
The rezoning request is notable because in the rest of the city, developers usually ask for changes in the other direction – from commercial and manufacturing to residential. But Flushing, as the pulsing heart of New York City’s Chinese community (and also home to a considerable number of Koreans), has an intense demand for commercial space. The prewar built environment, on the other hand, is largely residential.
As a result, downtown Flushing is one of the very few parts of the city where commercial rents can sometimes exceed residential ones, and this is not the first request that we’ve seen by a Flushing developer to build more commercial space than allowed by zoning.
Just as earlier generations of immigrants to New York City were allowed to leave their mark on the built environment, so too should Flushing’s booming Chinese and Korean populations. Not only should the city and its council grant the rezoning request, but the Department of City Planning should consider rezoning more of the land north of Northern Boulevard to accommodate even denser commercial uses, allowing builders without the stamina or deep pockets for ULURP to develop hotels and office buildings too.
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