116th Street Makeover.   Developer Doing MULTI-Million $ Project


 Wow.  Don’t look now, but 116th Street has a future. And it looks shining.

The Marcal Group, developers from Brooklyn, have announced plans that will transform the west end’s main commercial corridor.  The plan, called Seaside Landing, will be a complex of four buildings, each 9 stories high, from Beach 115th to Beach 117th offering 240,000 square feet of residential development with 23,000 feet of prime retail space. 

The main building on the west side of Beach 116th Street – the site of the old Beach Club catering hall and its adjacent parking lot -- will be a 9-story building (one story higher than the oceanfront Ocean Grande) and consist of condominium units and ground floor retail space.  The plans are for the units to be market rate.  A “sister” building – somewhat smaller -- will be on the east side of the street on what is now a vacant lot.

Mark Caller, 44, the principal partner, said he had been looking at the Peninsula Hospital site more than a year ago to do affordable housing but said  “We are not affordable housing developers” and plans there fell through.  It was around then that he started taking a closer look at Rockaway.  “I’m from Brooklyn but I bought myself a bike, rode over the Marine Parkway Bridge.  I went to 116th Street and said, ‘I want to do something here.’”

He called the owner of the Beach Club property and a deal was struck for $5 million in December, 2015.  Soon thereafter he bought a vacant lot across the street and has since purchased the building where Rock-a-Pup pet shop and Cuisine By Claudette do business.  Caller said he would like the two stores to stay in business saying, “I like good tenants.” He bought that property primarily to secure air rights and secure future development plans.

Of the Seaside Landing project Caller says, “I believe this will completely change 116th Street.”

Although Caller said his company is not affordable housing developers, Seaside Landing does have an affordable component.  One building, facing Beach 115th Street will be Senior Affordable Housing with 58 units with an AMI (Average Median Income) of 60 percent. In short, seniors living in this building will need to have an annual income of approximately $40,000 per year. A similar building will face Beach 117th Street so there will be approximately 100 units of senior housing. Community Board District Manager Jon Gaska said the 60 percent figure would satisfy the Community Board because it would not be low-income and such housing might attract seniors in Belle Harbor who “no longer want to care for a five bedroom house.”

Caller asserted the senior housing would be complementary.   “I’m not building anything that will hurt me trying to sell condos across the street or around the block.

“We envision selling condos at $500 a square foot.   We believe a brand new building, state of the art, will have units that sell for $700,000.”   He said there will be ample parking and it will be in between the two buildings on Beach 116th and Beach 117th.

As for the retail side, he was equally bullish.  “I’m not building this to put any dollar stores in there.  Good retail will follow good residential.  And I’m already very positive who is coming to the beach these days.”

When asked about the towering eyesore – the long vacant theater -- and the Park Inn Nursing Home on the boardwalk Caller said he’s confident his development will spur changes on those properties and others.  “This is really about capitalism.  I think owners of other properties will see there are better ways to make money.”

Caller is no newcomer to large scale developments.  He currently is involved in 10 other projects, mostly in Brooklyn.  He said he’s often developed property in neighborhoods that were about to take off and has bought and developed sites in Williamsburg, Crown Heights, Bensonhurst, and Bedford Stuyvesant.

There are some hurdles ahead.  A lender has to be secured (though he added he was confident and that would not be a problem) and some tax considerations (the 421-A tax program or something like it) have to be figured into pricing and planning but Caller is optimistic and expects to start by demolishing the old Beach Club within several weeks.

Caller said he has gotten political support from elected officials even though he can build “as-of-right” – or without seeking zoning changes or variances. 

In a presentation by the Marcal Group, the optimism is clear.  “The combination of retail space with market-rate residential units will have a stabilizing effect on the general area.  It will attract upscale national retail chains, thereby drawing more traffic to the existing retail of Beach 116th and will reduce neighborhood transience by attracting the young and family-oriented.”

Lola Star, president of the 116th Street Partnership, is optimistic as well.  “I'm thrilled to support any development that helps to transform Beach 116th Street into the thriving Main Street that the community of Rockaway deserves!  We've made so much progress in working together as a business community to create the positive change necessary for our businesses to thrive, new businesses to open here and to improve the cleanliness and safety of Beach 116.  This development will further help to achieve that goal!“

Lisa Jackson, owner of Rockaway Properties 116th Street said, "This is great news.  116th Street has been a little bit of a drag on the market.  Once this happens, Rockaway is really going to take off."

Meanwhile, the block has other developments in the works. Mike McMahon is renovating the upper floors of Roger’s Irish bar for use as a boutique hotel with a rooftop dining area. The old 99 Cent Store is being split into three new rental spaces.  The diner in the middle of the 200-block will be a physical therapy center and a brick oven pizza restaurant is planned for the building that was once home to PJ Curran’s bar.  And though Brown’s Hardware is closing, Brooklyn-based hardware outfit, Mazzones Hardware, will take over.

They say a rising tide lifts all boats.  Seaport Landing might be the development that lifts all of Beach 116th.   Let the Rockaway Renaissance continue!

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