BY NICHOLAS LOUD
Rising high above Long Island City, Skyline Tower officially became Queens tallest building when it topped off in 2019. However, this new development is impressive for reasons beyond its height. At this year’s Building Awards hosted by the Queens Chamber of Commerce, the development was recognized in the category New Construction Mixed Use.
Developed by Queens-based United Construction & Development Group, Skyline Tower aims to enhance both the skyline and community of Western Queens.
“For us, we were always trying to do a building that was pushing the boundaries,” said William Xu, vice president of United Construction & Development Group. “That’s why we wanted to build the tallest building in Queens.”
In addition to height, United Construction & Development Group was focused on giving people the opportunity to invest in Long Island City and the greater Queens community.
“There have been a lot of other buildings going up in LIC, but a lot of those buildings are rentals only,” Xu explained. “Up until this point there was not a building of this scale that was a condo building where people could actually buy units.
“Long Island City does get a lot of people from out of the borough who are transplants, but they always live in these rentals and leave, which is making this area a lot like Manhattan,” he added. “We believe that if you want a community to grow, you have to allow people to buy into the area. It was a big risk, but we had faith that people would make LIC their home.”
Designed by Hill West Architects and located at 23-15 44th Drive, Skyline Tower rises 67 stories. The building’s 802 condominium units have been on sale since 2018, including studios, one-bedroom, two-bedrooms, three-bedrooms, and penthouse residences running from $500,000 to $4 million.
The mixed-use development includes commercial space on the ground floor and sublevels, as well as a bevy of amenities for residents. These include a 75-foot lap pool, cedar-planked sauna, pet spa, children’s playroom, and business fitness centers.
However, Skyline Tower’s biggest selling point is its transit-rich location. Situated directly above the Court Square subway station, which serves the E, G, M, and 7 trains, the building offers direct access to the underground station, making it effortless for residents to commute into Manhattan, Brooklyn, or elsewhere in Queens.
Building above a subway station presents a unique set of challenges, and required United Construction & Development Group to work alongside the MTA. Together, the company and agency enhanced portions of the station and installed a new, ADA-compliant glass elevator, transforming Court Square into one of the most accessible stations in the city.
“We always want to not only come into the community, but also enhance it,” Xu said. “The cost of the subway station alone was almost $16 million, but it’s very important to understand that what makes a project successful is the neighborhood. Investing into the neighborhood is, in a way, investing into your property.”
United Construction & Development Group has worked on a number of projects throughout Queens, including Parkside Tower in Flushing, Fairfield Inn by Marriott near LaGuardia Airport, and the forthcoming Justice Avenue Tower in Elmhurst.
None of these projects come close to rivalling the scope of Skyline Tower, yet they taught United Construction & Development Group important lessons about investing in and strengthening local communities.
“We’ve been developers all over Queens since the beginning of our company,” explained Xu, who grew up in Bayside and Little Neck. “Because of that we know the areas and the neighborhoods and we know this is what we can do best.”
When United Construction & Development Group originally bought the lot where Skyline Tower now stands, they were bidding against massive companies from Manhattan and beyond. While he may never be sure for certain, Xu believes they won the bid because of their reputation and dedication to being a hometown developer.
“I’m not sure if we were the highest or the lowest bid, but I think we were chosen because we were from Queens and knew these neighborhoods,” he said. “Where better to develop than in your own backyard, where you know it better than anywhere else? Queens is our home and that’s where we feel we do the best.”