5 Challenges Facing LIC’s Mixed-Use Boom
At Bisnow’s Future of Long Island City event Tuesday, panelists dug into what’s going right as well as some hurdles to clear in the surging neighborhood, as it evolves into one of the city’s most dynamic mixed-use enclaves.
1. Diversifying Retail
JetBlue director Kevin Costello, who helped lead efforts to bring the airline’s world HQ to LIC in 2012, says he’s heard from some of the roughly 1,000 employees based in LIC that they’d like to see a pharmacy nearby the office in the Court Square area. But Chocolate Factory Theater co-founder Sheila Lewandowski says “as much as I go there, we can’t just have Duane Reades” signing leases in the neighborhood. LIC Flea & Food president Joshua Schneps estimates that as much as eight out of 10 stores along Vernon Boulevard are restaurants. For visitors or residents looking for a wide range of services, he asks, “how can you make a full day of it?”
2. Keeping Infrastructure in Sync With Development
Brickman CIO Steve Klein offers his take on CitiBike, which recently opened 12 new stations in LIC: a lot more would have been better. Steve also points out that the oft-criticized G train is actually a lifeline between LIC’s burgeoning creative office scene and the “hipsterland” of North Brooklyn that it connects to. But the G’s shorter train lengths could be an issue as the live-in-Brooklyn/work-in-Queens employment pipeline grows. Lightstone Group VP Jodi Stein adds that she anticipates public improvements to be mandated in new zoning as it hits the neighborhood.
3. Development for a 24/7 Community
Sheila (snapped with MoMA PS1 COO Jenni Kim) points out that some of the industrial-to-residential conversion near the waterfront cut against local businesses having a clientele as often as possible, like during lunch hours. Being busy as much of the time as possible is a key way non-chains can afford to set up shop in the area, she says. Density’s a great thing, says Herrick Feinstein partner Mitch Korbey (who moderated the Creating a Community panel), but unless there's liveliness all the time, it can also have a deadening effect.
4. Attracting (and Retaining) More Families
PMG director Jason Algaze (speaking, snapped with Modern Spaces CEO Eric Benaim) points to the role of amenities in attracting families to LIC. PMG’s new rental in LIC, which launches leasing next month, will have a slew of them, including a rooftop pool and a kids’ playroom. AptsandLofts founder David Maundrell says as LIC’s residential market matures, there may be an exodus of young families out of the neighborhood seeking better schools and more space, as he’s seen in some parts of Brooklyn. David says there’s no way around a likely lingering transient vibe in the area for a while because there’s so much rental product.
5. Keeping Condo Prices Reasonable
Eastern Consolidated director Chad Sinsheimer (who moderated the Multifamily Boom panel), points out that land prices in LIC rose 279% over the past three years. While land lags behind many prime areas of Brooklyn, trading at around $300/BSF, it still means developers have little choice but to go condo, as Charney Construction & Development principal Sam Charney points out. One audience member asked the panel how to make LIC work on a middle class income when, as Douglas Elliman managing director Rick Rosa notes, the low-end price for a new unit big enough to raise a family is around $1M. Sam’s response: with a household income of $200k, it should be doable. Beyond that, Sam says, existing product can be found for a bit less than new product, or there’s always Astoria.
The Putting the Workplace on the Map panel: Brickman CIO Steve Klein, CBRE's Michael Lee, RXR EVP Seth Pinsky, JetBlue director Kevin Costello, LIC Partnership president Liz Lusskin, BakerHostetler counsel Nicholas Melillo.