In a metropolis of hierarchies – of prestige, glamour and chic – Queens has always come third, trailing Manhattan and Brooklyn in proximity, glamour and real estate prices. While this unofficial mid-range spot looks like comfortable turf for some time to come, some industry observers suggest that Flushing is leading Queens County out of the Archie Bunker doldrums and into the high-end luxury living arena.
Multi-use developments in Flushing, which is the borough’s largest densely settled neighborhood, are planned for the community over the next couple of years. The addition of 2,000 residential units, many of them at eyebrow-raising prices for the area, will mark another step in Queens’ evolution.
“Flushing for a very long time was considered a B-class neighborhood where prices were substantially lower than in the city and substantially lower than other parts of the boroughs,” said Michael Shvo, president of Shvo Marketing Group, which is set to work on an undisclosed project in the area. “Now Flushing has become the new affordable place. Neighborhoods evolve because, going down the food chain, there always has to be a place to go when people can’t afford pricier places.”
Indeed, high-rise buildings in Flushing with uninterrupted city views go for about $500 per square foot – a fraction of Manhattan and Brooklyn prices, but significantly higher than surrounding Queens neighborhoods, and much steeper than Flushing itself just a few years ago.
Thirty minutes away via the No. 7 subway train, Flushing is home to the largest Asian community in the city – a fact that has attracted the dollars and attention of Manhattan developers who say the inherent cultural characteristics of the local population make it immune from any bubble that may burst.
“The Asian population loves to own – that is our base market,” said Andy Gerringer, managing director of Prudential Douglas Elliman’s development marketing group. In 2004, Douglas Elliman bought the 100- agent Goldmark Realty, and is involved in a major development in bordering College Point. “Flushing will draw other people for its affordability and location. But the first customer is local.”
Shvo adds that the pan-Asian population tends to have a lot of cash on hand, which also makes the area attractive to developers.
Unlike other hot development areas like Dumbo or the West 30s in Manhattan, Flushing has long supported a commercial center. The area is replete with shops and gyms, and its restaurants get regular mentions in the New York Times and New York magazine.
Developers expect more of the same in the area, as large mixed-use properties get under way. Much attention has been paid to Boymelgreen Development’s plan to overhaul the landmarked 1927 RKO Keith’s Theater on Northern Boulevard. The $200 million, 18-story project will feature 200 condos, 10,000 square feet of retail space, a senior center, and 260 parking spots.
While the theater project is aimed to incorporate a rare architectural gem into the community’s vast expansion, Muss Development Co.’s Flushing Town Center on a 14- acre property has a more suburban feel. The $600 million, 3.2-million-square-foot expanse will include an 800,000-square-foot shopping center with anchor stores, 1,000 residential units and parking for 2,850 cars, all a five-minute walk to the No. 7 train.
Jim Jarosik, senior vice president for Muss, said that his company is confident that the market for both its residential and retail properties is tight, as Flushing families are doubling up in single-family homes in the face of 2 percent vacancy rates and retailers have been crying for more space. “There is such a scarcity of sites in New York, you have to be creative in integrating multiple uses on one site,” Jarosik said.
“Development can take 20 to 30 years for a project to come to fruition,” Muss Development president Joshua Muss told the New York Sun recently. The combination of a proposed new stadium for the Mets and the redevelopment of Willets Point as well as the waterfront are all factors driving the project forward now, he said.
The Rockefeller Group is spearheading another important project in the area and is in discussions regarding a 1-million-squarefoot development on what was a city-owned parking lot in Flushing’s downtown. The planned project includes retail, condos and affordable housing.
Prudential Douglas Elliman’s College Point project includes 86 town homes, which are expected to fetch $900,000 to $1.2 million and be available by the end of February, Gerringer said. While the two-family structures are typical of the building styles in Queens, the gated waterfront community should appeal to those who might otherwise shop in Manhattan.
Gerringer’s description of what’s been named Sound View Point mirrors that of other developers with area projects: “This is nothing like Queens has seen.”