Big Tishman project moves forward in Long Island City

Tishman Speyer might have dropped its deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority this week for the massive development of Hudson Yards. But flying under the radar is the firm’s big commercial project in Long Island City, Queens, where the first stirrings of work have begun.

A portion of the long-awaited 3.2-million-square-foot complex, dubbed Gotham Center, is slated to be built on a city-owned site occupied by a municipal parking garage, where demolition could begin soon. The site is on the south side of Queens Plaza, at the corner of Queens Boulevard and Jackson Avenue.

Queens broker John Maltz, president of Greiner-Maltz Real Estate, said he had heard that the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene could be leasing up to 600,000 square feet of the complex’s first building, which will be 800,000 square feet.

Permits for a shed and scaffolding, which often precede demolitions, were approved by the city Department of Buildings in February. The scaffolding is finally going up this week. However, no building plans or plan to demolish the city’s garage have been filed on the DOB’s Web site.

The long-awaited project is split into two parts: a garage and office tower west of Jackson Avenue on the site of the municipal garage; and a possible commercial and residential development east of Jackson Avenue on privately-owned land, a source familiar with the deal said.

Tishman Speyer and partner Med-Mac Properties, a trust held by a member of the Modell family (which owns Modell’s Sporting Goods stores), are negotiating with the city Economic Development Corp. on the deal, the source said.

Med-Mac Properties holds a long-term lease on the garage site, but Tishman Speyer could take title to the plot, the source said.

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On the east side of Jackson Avenue, Tishman Speyer has an option to be a partner with Outlet City, another trust held by a member of the Modell family. That property is held by companies affiliated with Outlet City, city property records show.

“We heard there would be a heavy retail component on the ground floor with condos above,” Maltz said.

A spokeswoman for Tishman Speyer declined to comment. A spokesman for Modell’s also declined to comment.

Queens Plaza was included in a 2001 rezoning of Long Island City as part of a city effort to spur development near the transit hub, where the 7, R, E, N and W lines converge.

The bunker-like concrete parking structure was closed in February.

Gayle Baron, president of the Long Island City Business Development Corp., said the area’s rapid residential development needs to be balanced with more office space.

“I think it is important to get commercial into the mix,” she said. “I think there will be a need for this type of office space. Although in the short term you are going to have to figure out who is the anchor tenant.”

John Cicero, managing principal of commercial appraiser Miller Cicero, said the development is “part of the long-term plan. The city really wanted to redevelop that area which is a great transit route and a great location for offices.” 

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