Gotham Center Is Good News For LIC And Queens
Plans are underway for the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) to become the sole tenant of Two Gotham Center, a 662,000-squarefoot, 21-story, Class A office tower to be built on the site of a former parking garage near Queens Plaza at 28th Street and Thomson Avenue. The Health Department will relocate a significant portion of its staff to the new building from many of its 15 locations in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The project marks the beginning of construction of the first phase of Gotham Center, a major mixed-use development in the heart of Long Island City.
As far as we can see, this is a situation where everybody wins. Some 1,400 construction jobs will come about in the first phase of the proposed 3.5-million-squarefoot Gotham Center development. Relocation of most Health Department staff to the new facility, expected to be complete in late 2011, will increase Department of Health operational efficiencies, consolidating units that are now dispersed. The new space will incorporate new open space standards for city office space, designed to foster greater collaboration and a better workplace environment, according to the mayor. Designed by Moed De Armas & Shannon, the new tower will incorporate green building technology and achieve LEED Silver Certification from the U.S. Green Buildings Council for its interiors, as well as LEED Certification for its core and shell. With about 9,400 square feet of ground-floor retail space, the tax base and small business revenues will increase as well.
The only loser in this deal is the unfortunate five-level parking garage, first occupied in 1976 and vacant since this past February. The facility was vastly underutilized—when it was operational we never saw more than a few cars parked in it at any given time and we are sure many others who walked by it would agree—so there seems to be no good reason for its continued existence. Rising in its place, the Gotham Center project will be a further catalyst for growth in Long Island City, for decades an area that has been talked about as one with growth potential, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert C. Lieber agreed, citing Long Island City as "well poised for continued growth and development into New York City's fourth largest business district". Borough President Helen Marshall commented that the long awaited project would bring much needed economic activity in grand new buildings at the gateway to Queens, and "proves that our efforts to bring jobs and renewal through rezoning works".
Long Island City is already home to an array of corporate tenants, including Citigroup and the UN Federal Credit Union. In addition, the city is undertaking substantial capital improvements around Queens Plaza and Court Square that will make the area more attractive to businesses and inviting to residents. The $40 million beautification project includes a new public plaza, new plantings, lighting, street furniture and a public median from Queens Plaza to Court Street and a greenway from Queens Plaza to the East River. These improvements, combined with its proximity to Midtown Manhattan and accessibility to seven different subway lines and numerous bus routes, will serve to attract new businesses. Gotham Center will transform the gateway to Long Island City's commercial core while catalyzing private investments and bringing much needed retail amenities to the area. Thanks to efforts on the part of the city, private development and, according to Congressmember Carolyn Maloney, $19 million in federal funds slated for Queens Plaza, what was once a blighted area is now well on its way to becoming a welcoming gateway to the borough.
At a time when just about everyone feels strong concern about the city, state and federal economy, the Gotham Center development, with its promise of jobs and expanded public and private revenues, is great good news for Queens and New York City. We salute all the elected officials and private developers and their staffs who have worked tirelessly to bring this happy series of events about. Their faith in the potential of Long Island City and Queens as a whole will ensure the continued prosperity of the neighborhood, the borough and the city, now and for many years to come.