ODA New York Designs $2 Billion Development in Astoria, Queens

John Hill
8. July 2020
Image courtesy of Innovation QNS

Called Innovation QNS, the proposed five-block mixed-use development consists of apartments, office space, retail, open space, and an arts and culture hub next to the historic Kaufman Astoria Studios.

As it happens, the five blocks that Silverstein Properties, BedRock Real Estate Partners, and Kaufman Astoria Studios would like to develop into Innovation QNS are just three blocks from this writer's office. Notices from the development team describe this corner of Astoria, a traditionally Greek neighborhood in the northwest corner of Queens, as "largely dormant" and "dominated by parking lots, underutilized industrial and commercial buildings, and vacant spaces." 

Footprint of Innovation QNS development, bound by 35th Ave on the north, Northern Blvd on the east, 36th Ave on the south, and 37th St on the west. The "Community Facility Anchor" facing Northern Blvd is the location of a potential grammar school for 600 students. (Image: Screenshot from Innovation QNS)

Most of the businesses that occupy the eastern blocks of the project are auto showrooms, auto repair shops and the like; these uses owe their livelihood to Northern Boulevard, the major east-west, suburban-style thoroughfare that is home to car dealerships but also many big-box stores. The western blocks of the development site are home to one such store, P.C. Richard & Sons, a local electronics chain, while the westernmost block is almost entirely filled by the cinemas owned by Kaufman Astoria Studios. The latter would become part of Innovation QNS, though businesses such as P.C. Richard would relocate.

Looking east along 35th Ave from near the Kaufman Astoria Studios and the Museum of the Moving Image. (Image courtesy of Innovation QNS)

The design and masterplan by ODA New York show buildings that reach up to ten or twelve stories, much taller than any building in the immediate area, which range from one story to five stories. Filling the approximately dozen buildings across the five blocks would be 2,700 apartments, 250,000 square feet of office space, and 200,000 square feet of retail, with a spine of open space running east-west in the middle of the blocks. Since the development would require a rezoning (most of the properties are currently zoned Manufacturing, which doesn't allow apartment buildings), a percentage of its housing units would need to be affordable; per Innovation QNS, "some 700 permanently affordable and senior apartments" would be provided.

Looking east from the intersection of Steinway St and 35th Ave (Image courtesy of Innovation QNS)

Roughly bisecting the development is the north-south Steinway Street, a busy neighborhood shopping corridor whose stores are located north of 35th Avenue. Vacancy rates along the street are noticeably high — as in other parts of New York City — and as such the developers are hoping Innovation QNS will revitalize Steinway Street and draw retailers to the southern end of the street.

The largest open space, shown above and here, abuts an existing playground that was recently renovated. (Image courtesy of Innovation QNS)

Touted as a "product of more than two years of dialog with area stakeholders," Innovation QNS still requires a lengthy approval process due to the necessary rezoning. Reports indicate that the team will submit the project to the NYC Department of City Planning next year, with construction starting as early as 2023 and lasting ten years for full buildout. If carried through as envisioned, Innovation QNS will make a dramatic mark on this corner of Astoria — and across Queens.

Twenty-five percent of the development area would be given over to open spaces. (Image courtesy of Innovation QNS)
The "world market" envisioned for Innovation QNS recalls some of the colorful courtyards of ODA's recently completed Denizen Bushwick in Brooklyn. (Image courtesy of Innovation QNS)
Some of the renderings give the impression that the development is introverted, focused on its open spaces rather than the surrounding streets. (Image courtesy of Innovation QNS)
Other renderings depict the spaces, like here and at top, with crowds more akin to Manhattan than Queens, perhaps reflecting the aspirations of the development team. (Image courtesy of Innovation QNS)

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