The Real Deal New York

Long-vacant Jamaica space to house big box retailer

Property trades for discounted rate of $14M
By Guelda Voien | August 20, 2012 01:00PM

Manhattan-based developer United American Land has paid $14 million for a 57,000-square-foot multi-level property in Jamaica, Queens that comes with 100,000 feet of air rights, the developer told The Real Deal. The building will be redeveloped and leased to a big box retailer. The seller was Petra Capital Management, a private investment management firm, two subsidiaries of which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2010.

When the retail space, which has been vacant for 20 years, hit the market last year, GFI Realty Services senior broker Yosef Katz, who marketed the property, said it would trade in the mid-$20 million range

Despite the discounted price, the sale bodes well for the area. This year, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation, the non-profit that oversees development projects in Jamaica but has no relation to GFI’s deal, was, according to the New York Post, the subject of a federal probe in relation to the $9.2 million secured to improve a Long Island Rail Road underpass and create a shopping strip just blocks from the United American site. The U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a subpoena to the Greater Jamaica Development Corp., with hopes of uncovering where the nearly $40 million funneled to the corporation over recent years had gone.

A spokesperson for the development corporation denied that a federal probe had been launched into his group’s dealings, and stated that the subpoena was not associated with any investigation of the group.

After a long delay, the underpass renovations were unveiled, but the 5,500 square feet of retail spaces remain vacant and the U.S. Representative for the district, Gregory Meeks, who has allegedly directed millions to the development corporation, faces scrutiny for this and other deals — including hundreds of thousands of dollars intended for Katrina victims that were somehow diverted, also according to reports from the New York Post.

Big box retailers have been a target of community groups in the past. Last year, a group of Harlem residents came out against a proposed Walmart on 125th Street, saying it would snuff out the area’s smaller local businesses.