Transforming a Parking Lot to Housing with the Help of a Church

Why a church helped develop a new mixed-use community in Queens.

New York—With the opening of Macedonia Plaza in Queens, a one-time municipal parking lot has been transformed into a mixed-use development offering 143 affordable, low-income housing units along with much-needed retail.

Situated at 37-08 Union Street, Macedonia Plaza features apartments that are affordable for very low and low-income New Yorkers. Later this year, Tree of Life NY grocery store will fill its retail space. The opening was attended by officials of developer BRP Companies, New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development Corporation (HPD) commissioner Vicki Been, New York City Housing Development Corporation president Gary Rodney, and church and development partners.

“The Macedonia Plaza was in the planning for many years; however, the deal never came to fruition,” BRP managing partner Meredith Marshall told MHN. “With the development of the adjacent Flushing Commons site, financing became available through various funding programs. Also, we know how to get this kind of transaction done. BRP has a history of working with non-profits and faith-based institutions in addition to having relationships with all the city agencies.”

A key advocate for incorporation of affordable housing at the site was one of the longest-standing houses of worship in Queens, the more-than 150-year-old Macedonia AME Church. The church partnered with the city and developer to choose the architect and develop the design for the project.

At 161,760 square feet in size, the new 14-story affordable rental structure makes efficient use of space. It fills approximately 30,000 square feet of a one-time New York City Department of Transportation municipal parking lot, along with underused air rights made available as a result of collaboration with the adjacent Macedonia AME Church, which has acted as the community liaison for the project since pre-construction.

The apartments in Macedonia Plaza include 27 studios, 58 one-bedroom units, 55 two-bedroom units and a pair of three-bedroom apartments.

One unit is reserved for an on-site superintendent. Twenty-nine of the units are affordable for individuals earning $19,063 to $24,080, or $24,515 to $30,960 for households of three. The remaining units are affordable for individuals earning from $29,383 to $36,120 and from $37,783 to $46,440 for three-person households. These incomes reflect the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) 2013 Area Median Income calculations.

“Flushing’s diversity, culture and thriving local economy are what makes this neighborhood so unique and attractive, and have played a key role in contributing to its continued development,” said Been.

“It is critical that we have housing like Macedonia Plaza that contributes to the vitality of the community while also safeguarding its affordability as the neighborhood experiences new opportunities for growth. Macedonia Plaza is a great example of how we can work across agencies and with our faith-based partners to leverage resources like an underused site and adjacent air rights, to create more than 140 new affordable homes for hardworking New York families.”

A critical need exists for affordable housing throughout New York City, a fact made evident by the more than 30,000 applications received for these units. That, Marshall said, “is an indicator of the necessity in Flushing and beyond.”