Court Square Civic Association

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Announcements & Meeting Minutes

Meeting Minutes: 04.06.17

Meeting: What's in Store for Retail
Committee: Business Development
Date: April 6, 2017
Time: 7pm
Location: MoMA PS1

Guests: 
John Veenema (Co-owner, Beast Next Door)
Elizabeth Lusskin (President, LIC Partnership)
Patricia Dunphy (SVP, Rockrose Development Corporation)

Meeting Minutes:

  • LIC Springs (Community Block Festival) on May 6.
    • Over 15,000 people attended LIC Springs last year.
  • Pharmacy in the neighborhood:
    • Duane Reade is not interested.
    • CVS is circling and interested.
    • Rockrose does not want to put in CVS because it competes with Food Cellar.
    • Rockrose is in near-finished discussions to put in a small pharmacy in one of its properties.
    • People have been trying to get a drug store in Queens Plaza for years.
  • Jackson Ave. retail corridor:
    • Rockrose saved all the old buildings – which was an expensive investment.
    • The first new venue is Toby’s Estate Coffee.
    • All of the retail in Court Square is hard financially – there’s just not enough foot traffic.
    • Levante — an Italian / pizza restaurant from the owners of Luzzo’s — is coming in July.
    • Sapps Japanese restaurant is opening next door to Dutch Kills – likely July / August.
  • The primary selling points for getting businesses to move here:
    • Court Square is finally reaching critical mass.
    • There will soon be 9,000 units in this area (which means a lot of potential business).
    • We are trying to get businesses to understand what the neighborhood is now and what it will be.
    • A chain will pay more rent because they have hundreds of stores that will absorb the loss, but it’s not the kind of businesses Rockrose or LIC Partnership want here.
    • Beast Next Door would rather have other interesting neighbors — which makes working and living here more interesting — than a collection of chains.
    • Rockrose is very up-front about renting the spaces.
    • Interested parties have to know that they must be in it for the long haul.
    • It’s a 3-5 year vision – businesses are not coming in here instantly making money.
    • They have given breaks to their tenants because they see the long-term potential.
  • Beast Next Door owners live in the area and understood the need for their kind of bar, finally opening after nearly a year of searching for the right space.
    • A big challenge for them is getting people to the business.
    • Right now, all the construction is a deterrent.
    • Happy Hour helps because of the commercial/office traffic.
    • Supports the Small Business Jobs Survival Act because they’d like to have more support at the negotiating table when it comes to renewing their lease. If their landlord sees they’re doing well, they don’t want their landlord to hike their rent to the point where they’re no longer doing well because they’re back to scraping by to make rent.
    • Patricia Dunphy pointed out that many leases already have language for arriving at mutually agreeable rent renewals.
  • Tracking the neighborhood’s development history:
    • One challenge is that the zoning was planned as a mixed-use area during the 2001 rezoning, but it has developed as primarily residential.
    • The LIC Core Study’s partial purpose is to course-correct what happened after the 2001 rezoning, and encourage more commercial and mixed-use development.
    • A challenge with Long Island City is that it has developed in fits and starts, and never had constant momentum.
      • Citibank opened in 1990 and then there was a recession.
      • Buildings have developed as islands, rather than a connected community.
  • The changing dynamic of retail in LIC and across America:
    • The buildings are like cruise ships – people don’t have to leave, which hurts businesses that rely on foot traffic.
    • You are now seeing empty store fronts in very mature neighborhoods.
    • Court Square is for the adventurous people that are willing to put in a little bit of effort.
    • The community has to make the effort to get out.
    • Get off at Queens Plaza instead of getting off at Court Square, and walk through the neighborhood.
    • The community has to help by supporting their local businesses.
    • If we all shop primarily online, we hurt our local shops.
  • Looking to the future of development:
    • There currently isn’t a consistent feel to the streetscape of Long Island City.
    • There will be a big change in the daytime population when there’s more of a mix of both residents and workers.
    • There are 300,000 square feet of retail coming in the next 3-5 years.
    •  “WeWork” will be in the Tishman Speyer commercial building on Jackson Ave., and they will have lots of small businesses that get out and provide foot traffic.
    • For JetBlue – there are 1200 people and 1/3 of them now live in the area.
    • LIC Partnership is working closely with Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island because entrepreneurship is built into the curriculum, and the businesses that students create will need space.
    • With all of the rentals, we are constantly in the business of educating people due to the rental turnover.
  • Audience thoughts/Questions:
    • There is/was a community in the neighborhood before the high-rises. Many people in the neighborhood don’t live in these all-inclusive buildings.
      • Where are the gyms for the people that don’t live in a building that has one.
    • Some neighborhood residents feel that the work is being put on them to frequent the businesses and they wonder what is being done for them.
      • Rent is high.
      • Prices for food, goods, and eating out are high.
      • Where’s the balance?
    • There is a lack of education about what’s in the area – we need more marketing outside of this immediate area to draw other people in.
    • For the residents, some chains (e.g., Bed, Bath, and Beyond) would be nice to help with shopping and finding more affordable shopping.
    • Suggestion:  Encourage the buildings to put up boards in the lobby to spotlight a “business of the month”.
    • Suggestion:  Long island city supper club.
    • Suggestion: Identify a “neighborhood ambassadors” within each building
    • Is there a way to survey this neighborhood to see what the neighborhood needs?
    • Suggestion: We should have “teen neighborhood advocates” through Teen Art Salon.

 

Amadeo Plaza