Rockrose president Justin Elghanayan has been the principal architect of the emergence of the Court Square neighborhood. The company has three major projects in the area, including the Eagle Warehouse, Hunter Street (the future home to 900+ rental units) and the already opened Linc LIC. Rockrose also owns several other smaller properties in the area that will be developed in the next few years.
Elghanayan was kind enough to give The Court Square Blog a walking tour of the neighborhood recently, and share his insights into Rockrose’s projects and his vision for the future of the area. Here are parts of our conversation along the way, which started at Linc LIC:
Justin Elghanayan: Here we are in the lobby of Linc LIC, Rockrose’s newest luxury rental building. We also own most of the triangular block across the street, where M. Wells Steakhouse recently opened. The rest of the block will eventually be developed with approximately 150 residential units.
The Court Square Blog: So The Food Cellar (a gourmet grocery store) will be opening in the retail space of the Linc LIC. This to me was one of the biggest developments in his whole neighborhood.
JE: Yes, I think that will be a game changer, a pivotal moment for the neighborhood. When you get a high-end supermarket that is going to have gourmet food and health food, that sends a message to people. Good food options are important to people, and having a high quality market in your building or close by is a critical amenity. Food Cellar just finished their plans, and they will be building out their space shortly.
JE: Across the way Rockrose will be developing another large luxury rental building, offering 975 units. This building will also offer 20 percent affordable units, and we are bidding out that project right now. Construction should get started very soon.
TCSB: I’ve noticed that you guys started construction on the properties you own along Jackson Avenue. What are your plans for the area? Do you have any specific ideas of who will fill in those spaces?
JE: We wanted to keep the original buildings along Jackson Avenue to preserve the feel of the older neighborhood. There are many retailers who prefer to be in traditional buildings, and we think these spaces will work well for some of the small businesses that the neighborhood needs. What would you like to see in this neighborhood here?
TCSB: I’d like to see a few places where the community can come together. I’d like to see a cafe or coffee shop in one spot. I’ve heard rumblings of a beer garden in another. I think another restaurant or two would also do really well here.
JE: Those are all things that would work well in those spaces. We hope to attract retailers that will enhance the neighborhood.
TCSB: Do you still envision this area as a nightlife hub?
JE: I think these things are impossible to predict. It could become that. Culture is an unpredictable thing, and it flows in waves. I think this area has the bones that could make it that. The public transportation is amazing, so people can get here. That is the biggest thing. The neighborhood has always had a strong arts community, and lots of artists have their studios here. MoMA PS1 and major art institutions are here. If you add these things together, plus a rapidly growing residential population, that to me points to growing retail and nightlife opportunities. I believe this neighborhood will ultimately be a destination.
JE: So then we’ve got the Eagle Warehouse. We’re going to try to keep as much of the original building as we can. Visually, there will be a warehouse component and a tower component.
TCSB: Is there a timeline on delivery?
JE: No, not yet. It probably won’t happen too much later than this one (Justin points toward the project on Hunter Street).
TCSB: There’s still a lot of buildings around here that haven’t developed yet, too. (In reference to the blue building pictured below the Eagle Warehouse.)
JE: We think these buildings are going to be very valuable. There’s a whole neighborhood springing up around us. Ultimately, Jackson Avenue is going to be a commercial thoroughfare for the neighborhood. You’re going to have a commercial things happening with residential all around it.
TCSB: I saw a few weeks ago that you’ve actually started working on the Eagle building.
JE: We’re doing some interior demo and site preparation, but it’s still pretty early in the planning process.
TCSB: What’s going on with the area closer to Queens Plaza?
JE: There are a lot of new developments planned for that area.
TCSB: I just don’t view this area as a true part of Court Square right now. I guess my focus has been more on the southern area where Rockrose has done the most work.
JE: It seems further than it actually is. Physically it’s not far at all, and once the area gets further developed I think these areas will begin to merge together. That’s my prediction.
TCSB: So what is the ultimate message you want people to take from this?
JE: The key things about the neighborhood are its great public transportation network, its strong arts community, new and interesting retailers springing up, and an emerging restaurant scene. These foundations, along with all the amenities that are coming with the new residential developments, will continue to make Court Square a very appealing neighborhood to residents and retailers.