Long Island City has long been in a retail rut, as leasing fails to keep pace with the construction of residential towers in areas such as Court Square. But there now appear to be changes on the horizon.
Rockrose Development has wooed several new retail tenants for a string of buildings the company owns along Jackson Avenue in Court Square, include Toby’s Estate Coffee, the Aussie roastery known for its communal tables.
Toby’s, which has locations in Manhattan and in Brooklyn, just inked a deal at 26-25 Jackson Avenue, an old industrial building, Elghanayan told The Real Deal. The 1,000-square-foot location will be Toby’s first in Queens.
Rockrose also signed on Levante, a new pizza-centric eatery that will open in a 950-square-foot space at 26-21 Jackson Avenue and will also have an outdoor space.
The third tenant on Rockrose’s roster is a Japanese eatery helmed by Carlos Calle, the chef from Sapporo East, a longtime East Village staple. The 2,000-square-foot space, at 27-24 Jackson Avenue, is next to craft cocktail lounge Dutch Kills bar.
The first two tenants were lured in by the quirky industrial architecture of their spaces, which had their innards ripped out by Rockrose, leaving triple-height ceilings.
“Often, the best retail plays off the existing architectural spirit of a place,” said Justin Elghanayan, president of Rockrose. The firm is developing several residential towers in the neighborhood, including the Hayden, a 50-story rental building at 43-25 Hunter Street, which is slated to top out this week.
While residents have been moving into thousands of new apartment building in Long Island City, the surrounding area is still desolate when it comes to retail activity.
Commercial rents in the neighborhood have a wide range, from about $45 to $75 per square foot, sources previously told TRD, with the priciest spaces located on Vernon Boulevard, and the most affordable in the Queens Plaza area.
Asking rents for the Jackson Avenue spaces were approximately $60 a foot, Elghanayan said.
“There are still a lot of retailers that are like, ‘Long Island City? Where the hell is that?’ ” Matthew Baron, president of Simon Baron Development, told TRD last year.
Amber Jacobsen, co-owner of Toby’s in New York, said the company seeks out areas on the cusp of transformation.
“We moved to Williamsburg in a similar circumstance before the retail came in,” she said. “We like Long Island City because it’s so close to the city and we really felt it was underserviced in the coffee market.”