Developers unveil $2 billion ‘Innovation QNS’ proposal
by Benjamin Fang
Jul 08, 2020 | 5168 views | 0 0 comments | 205 205 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Innovation QNS
Innovation QNS, a five-block development project in Astoria, will encompass parts of 35th Avenue and Steinway Street.
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A group of developers is proposing a $2 billion project to bring a mix of housing, retail, open space and community facilities to a five-block stretch of Astoria.

Silverstein Properties, Bedrock Real Estate Partners and Kaufman Astoria Studios unveiled their “Innovation QNS” plan last week, which they believe will reactivate the area near Steinway Street and 35th Avenue.

The proposal calls for 2,700 units of housing, 700 of which would be affordable under the city’s Mandatory Inclusionary Housing (MIH) program. A portion of those units will be set aside for seniors.

The developers want the affordable units to be at 60 percent of the area median income (AMI), which is roughly $61,000 for a family of three.

It would also include 250,000 square feet of office space for creative industry companies, 200,000 square feet of retail and 88,000 square feet for community facilities.

Other amenities in the district include two acres of open space, a new school, an arts and culture hub, multiplex cinema, and new grocery store.

In a briefing last week, representatives from the development team said Innovation QNS would address long-standing community needs.

“We always viewed this plan as something for the existing neighborhood and shaped by the existing neighborhood,” said Tracy Capune, vice president at Kaufman Astoria Studios.

The plan to make a “lively, walkable, mixed-use district” would generate 5,400 jobs on site, 3,700 construction jobs and 1,700 permanent jobs, according to reports. The project would result in as much as $18 million in annual tax revenue.

“It’s really the kind of investment our community needs to jumpstart the local economy,” Capune said.

According to Capune, the development team began holding stakeholder conversations with community leaders, business owners and artists two years ago. The stakeholders included the Steinway Astoria Partnership, Central Astoria Local Development Coalition (CALDC) and the Museum of the Moving Image.

The developers also conducted an online survey of 1,200 residents and researched local businesses to develop a list of community priorities, Capune said. She broke down the identified needs into three “buckets”: economic opportunity, arts and culture, and sustainability.

Captune said the project will lead to not only construction jobs, but long-term jobs with “innovation economy companies.” They are also working to identify community entrepreneurship and job-training programs.

As for arts and culture, the developers are in talks with MOMI and the RIOULT Dance Center about arts and culture programming.

For the sustainability aspect, Capune said the project features not just affordable housing and green space, but also community health and wellness facilities, like urgent care clinics, doctor’s offices and more.

“We believe that’s what makes a liveable neighborhood,” she said.

Eran Chen, founding principal of the architecture firm ODA New York, said 25 percent of the lot area will be used to create a series of open spaces that is “the base of this entire plan.”

The open spaces include a public park built around the current Playground 35, an urban plaza with opportunity for street art and farmer’s market, pedestrian plaza, gallery garden and two family-sized courtyards.

“We’re providing more fragmented pockets of community gathering that will stimulate life in a community,” Chen said. “Those are the elements that make sustainable neighborhoods of the future.”

According to renderings, the district will include more than a dozen buildings, two of which will be as high as 26 stories. When asked about the density of the project, Capune said developers “thought very hard” about how to provide the maximum amount of open space while also keeping the height of the buildings in context with the neighborhood.

She added that the project will not displace residents, and businesses that are affected will be relocated nearby or within the district, including UA Kaufman Astoria and P.C. Richard & Son.

“The blocks will be demolished once they’re vacant,” she said.

Capune said the developers are near the point of filing a pre-application statement with the Department of City Planning. The public review process is expected to start next year, with construction anticipated for 2023.

The development team will also launch a website to provide updates. When asked if the developers expect opposition, Capune said with community outreach, they will start a community dialogue, including with those who have questions about Innovation QNS.

“We’ll be looking for public feedback on the project,” she said, “and offer a forum for dialogue.”

The plan has already engendered opposition and scrutiny on social media. Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the area, also criticized the project.

“This proposal envisions luxury towers, some as tall as 26 stories, surrounded by two to six-story buildings in a working-class neighborhood,” he said. “We do nor want or need Hudson Yards East in Astoria.”
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