Chinese to Develop $50 Million Property in Brooklyn

An architectural rendering, courtesy of Raymond Chan. (Photo via World Journal)

An architectural rendering of Eighth Avenue Center, courtesy of Raymond Chan. (Photo via World Journal)

The real estate market in Brooklyn has been hot in the recent years. But most newly developed properties are small-scale mixed-use buildings. That may change with the parking lot at 6208 8th Avenue that was recently purchased by Chinese developers for $50 million.

The developers plan to erect a group of buildings that can host a shopping mall, offices, a hotel and residential units. The project, named Eighth Avenue Center for now, and offering a total of 1.1 million square feet in space, is expected to break ground next spring. Raymond Chan, a co-developer whose architecture firm will design the project, said that because of zoning restrictions, this piece of land is the only lot in the Eighth Avenue neighborhood in Brooklyn that can be used for large-scale development. The project will not only alter the skyline of the neighborhood but also bring great changes in the dynamic of the Chinese community in Brooklyn.

“Today’s Eighth Avenue is like Flushing 15 years ago,” said Chan. He said that as a rapidly establishing Chinese neighborhood, the Eighth Avenue area has huge potential for development. So he and several other Chinese developers pooled together $50 million to purchase the land from Jewish developer Andy Cohen. They plan to build one mixed-use building of three floors of underground parking space, three floors of shopping area, and an activity center for community organizations, one 17-floor office building, one seven-floor and 150-room hotel, and two 15-floor residential condos.

Chan said for the only lot that is zoned C4-3 for large-scale development in the neighborhood, the price of $50 million was reasonable. He said the deal closed May 21. The plan is subject to change pending community board approval. Investors hope construction will begin next spring, and the project may take seven years to be completed. Most of the development costs will be covered by the investors and bank mortgages while a small portion will be solicited from EB5 investment immigrants. [Translator’s note: EB5 is a U.S. green card program that allows foreigners to obtain residence by investing $500,000 to $1 million in qualified businesses in the U.S.]

The lot is located on the busiest part of Eighth Avenue, close to the subway station of the N train. It’s a bustling area with high density and great business potential. Community members think the success of the proposed “Eighth Avenue Center” depends on two important factors — solving traffic issues and benefiting the community.

Kenny Guan, sergeant-at-arms and a member of the land use and landmarks committee of Community Board 7 in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, said the lot is located at the joint boundary of Community Board 7 and Community Board 10. The developers may have to get approval from both boards. Guan said he personally likes the proposal and believes, if implemented properly, it can greatly benefit the Eighth Avenue neighborhood. He said whether the project can get support from community boards depends on whether it can solve traffic problems and bring concrete benefits to the community.

The lot has been left empty for years. (Photo by Qunchao Hong via World Journal)

The lot has been left empty for years. (Photo by Qunchao Hong via World Journal)

Growing up in the neighborhood, Guan said he knew of the lot when he was a child. For decades it had been empty, taken over by weeds. More recently, it has been used for parking, an undeveloped space amid an area that has experienced rapid population growth and neighborhood crowding.

Guan said a few years ago, the landlord had planned to bring a Home Depot here. But the plan was shelved amid strong protests from the community. He said bringing in big chain stores can only kill the small businesses on which the neighborhood relies. So whether the new proposal can be approved by the community boards depends on whether it can fit in the current business ethos of Eighth Avenue.

In addition, traffic jams and parking shortages hamper the development of the neighborhood. Guan said the developers should think about how they will avoid worsening traffic during the construction, and whether the project can provide enough parking space. These would be the keys to getting approval from the community boards.

John Lam, a Chinese hotel developer who once thought to join the bidding for the land, said he also thinks parking is an important issue. “In order for the whole project to be profitable, you need to have parking for 1,000 to 2,000 spaces,” he said. And he is not sure whether the traffic situation in the neighborhood can accommodate so many cars.

But Chan is confident his project can fulfill these needs. He said the three-floor shopping area in the project will all be for small shops, consistent with the current business structure of the neighborhood. The community activity center and a digital library can provide more services to the community. More importantly, the modern building complex will raise the status of the neighborhood. “It’s just like Flushing, more high-rise buildings, more modernized,” he said.

As for the parking issue, Chan said he also designed the seven-floor medical center at 5515 8th Avenue which is under construction now. Irrespective of the project, parking is always his priority in designing. He presented the blueprints that show both projects have computer-operated underground garages and are able to provide low price and efficient parking to the community. “These parking spaces will not only be enough to serve the needs of the buildings, but also will be open to the public to help alleviate the parking problem in the neighborhood,” he said.


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