Queens condo plans go rental

Twin 17-story condominium towers proposed in 2005 in Elmhurst that would have been the neighborhood’s tallest buildings have been scaled back because of the tightening financial market and local opposition, the developers said.

Instead of residential and commercial towers on either side of Broadway at Queens Boulevard, a six-story, 83-unit rental apartment building will be built on the east side of the street, while a two-story commercial building with two or three floors of parking on top is being considered for the west side.

James Pi, CEO of Queens-based Pi Development, said he was stymied by local opposition, the difficulty of arranging financing residents and even nature.

“Maybe is it better it happened like this,” he said. “Either way we have to do something there. That is important.”

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He said he expected the east side building to be completed in 2010, but the west side structure, which needs a variance from the Board of Standards and Appeals, would not begin for about two years. The west side is above a subway line and an area with a very high water table.

Despite having support from elected officials at the time, including Democratic City Council Member Helen Sears, residents opposed the plan.
Community Board 4 members complained that the area was too congested, said Richard Italiano, the board’s district manager.

Swain Weiner, Massey Knakal Realty Services’ senior director of sales and associate broker in Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights sales director, said developers have been having a harder time obtaining commercial construction loans, but he knew of no other cases in the area of a builder changing a project from condos to rentals. But more could happen, he said.

“It is hard to tell in today’s market,” he said.

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