What Will LIC Retail Look Like in Five Years?


Long Island City has emerged as a place to live and work, but not shop. Things are slated to change in the next three to five years as hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail is set to come to the otherwise barren shopping area.

There are 55 residential, office and hospitality projects either planned or under construction in LIC, of which 28 have a retail component totaling 270,000 square feet, according to the Long Island City Partnership. The remaining 27 developments have yet to announce whether or not they will offer shopping.

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A new rendering from the business improvement district and provided to Commercial Observer highlights 11 new buildings either breaking ground or already under construction between two key commercial areas, Court Square and Queens Plaza. Those are being developed by the likes of Tishman Speyer, Rockrose Development Corp. and Brause Realty, and show what the neighborhood will look like in the next five years.

Although the area has been moving, there has been a dearth of service retail—pharmacies, supermarkets and clothing stores—to meet the demands of the growing commercial and residential populations.

“We haven’t gotten that service retail filled in yet,” Elizabeth Lusskin, the president of the LIC Partnership, told CO. “People want to buy clothes, they want to do their houseware shopping.”

Ms. Lusskin noted that all the towers have already gotten the proper city approvals and are guaranteed to get built.

“These are all things that we know are actually being constructed,” she said. “You just have to walk around and pinch yourself because it’s going to look so different in the not-so-distant future.”

But national retailers have yet to plant a flag beyond the areas around subway stations in central business pockets in LIC such as at Court Square (home of Citibank and CUNY Law School), Queens Plaza (where JetBlue move in 2012) and Jackson Avenue (where Vornado Realty Trust (VNO) purchased a building last year). Aside from a Duane Reade on the waterfront at 4702 Fifth Street between 47th Road and 47th Avenue, the area doesn’t have many stores—let alone a CVS/pharmacy or a Rite Aid.

“Those kinds of uses require a lot of space,” Ms. Lusskin said. “And to come into an area that’s still being built out requires that vision. The purpose of doing this rendering was to help people see that the opportunities being presented are not mirages.”

She added that once the construction fences come down, retail should start to branch beyond the subway hubs and into the streets where people will start living. After all, the partnership estimates there are 24,500 residential units in the pipeline for LIC across 55 projects. That should have an additional 75,000 people walking the streets in LIC once most of these developments are done in the coming years.

Retailers have been and will be cautious about planting a flag until that dense street traffic arrives, said Patrick Breslin, a retail broker with Colliers (CIGI) International. LIC has made headways in becoming a live-work-play area, he added, but stores still have yet to see it as a profitable market. With all the residential coming online in the next few years that should all change and more national brands such as Walgreens will start coming into LIC.

“It’s going to be a whole new submarket,” Mr. Breslin said. “It won’t be as strong as Downtown Brooklyn or other places, but it should be able to hold its own.”