Last Wednesday, the Greater Jamaica Development Corporation (GJDC), Empire State Development (ESD) and local leaders were joined by Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul in breaking ground on an affordable co-working space at the Moda Building in downtown Jamaica.
Anticipating completion by spring 2020, the Downtown Jamaica Co-Working and Training Facility will accommodate a 12,000-square-foot area for up to 80 local entrepreneurs and independent professionals to nourish a commercially synergistic community, all while reducing operational costs.
“At the GJDC, we study what has worked in the past, and more importantly, what is going to work in the future for our community,” said the organization’s president and CEO, Hope Knight. “Many of the individuals who will now have access to office space represent the very type of creative entrepreneurs necessary to fuel vibrant economic growth.”
Knight explained that although downtown Jamaica is currently home to more than 1.5 million square feet of commercial office stock, a combination of inflexible lease terms and strict credit history requirements blocked many homegrown entrepreneurs from utilizing it.
The circumstances are even more compelling, she notes, when considering the large percentage of small businesses in the neighborhood operating with less than five employees.
The facility will be the first of its kind in downtown Jamaica, and is expected to support more than 250 jobs in the local workforce. Through sharing workspace, as well as resources and equipment, community businesses and freelancers will have a hand in building Jamaica’s commercial landscape from the ground up.
GJDC’s co-working location, which will take over the Moda Building’s fifth floor, will feature conference rooms, casual meeting spaces, private offices, sound booths and scattered copy centers.
In addition, those using the space will have access to a kitchen/public lounge area, mailroom and mediation booth.
Also included in the construction plans is a state-of-the-art classroom and training center, complete with a screen system for presentations and two adjustable partitions to create a flexible layout.
Funding for the project is supplemented by a grant of $1.65 million to be distributed by ESD, part of the $10 million in state funds awarded to downtown Jamaica in the first round of Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative (DRI).
Each year, the program invests $100 million across ten neighborhoods across the state in an effort to implement community visions for reinvigorating their respective local economies.
DRI funds for Jamaica have been allocated to six other community developments that are currently underway: a Prime Skills Entrepreneurship Fund, a career prep program at Edison High School, creating more inviting gateway to downtown, converting the underpass at 159th Street into a public space, installing high-speed broadband for the community, and improving neighborhood dining options.
“Projects like these, we don’t dream up in Albany, that is the brilliance of the downtown revitalization initiative,” said Hochul. “We want to empower the local communities, because nobody knows or loves this community as much as the people in this room.”
Additional contributors to the GJDC project, which will see an overall investment of $5.1 million, include Assemblywoman Vivian Cook, State Senator Leroy Comrie, Borough President Melinda Katz, Deutsche Bank Foundation and National Grid.
“Great things are happening here in Jamaica, and that is evident in what we are seeing today,” said Councilman I. Daneek Miller, who advocated in the City Council for $300,000 in support for the co-working space. “People want to be here, and they want to be able to ensure that we are reflecting the needs and values of the people.”