Ferris wheel, outlet center to help Staten Island be forgotten no longer?

Staten Island has often been referred to as the “forgotten borough” in New York City.

Planners, strategists, developers, business owners and advocates have long worked to overcome the moniker and make the borough relevant from a national perspective. In a few short years, thanks to the construction of two unique projects, people might be saying that Staten Island is forgotten no longer.

If all goes to plan, by 2016, Staten Island will be home to the first designer outlet center in New York City and the tallest Ferris wheel in the world, both located steps from each other in St. George.

On land that currently serves as parking for the Richmond County Bank Ballpark and the St. George Ferry Terminal will be built a 350,000 square-foot retail complex called Harbor Commons featuring 100 designer outlet stores and a 120,000 square-foot hotel, along with what will be called The New York Wheel — a 625-foot tall Ferris wheel that will rise 84 feet higher than the Singapore Flyer, the world’s current largest Ferris wheel.

“For the last two years, I have anxiously been waiting for this day,” Borough President James Molinaro said. “This wheel is a game changer for Staten Island and it will permanently change the face of St. George in a positive way.”

The projects are expected to generate $480 million in private investment while creating more than 1,200 construction jobs and 1,100 permanent jobs, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office. Once opened, both the wheel and the retail complex are expected to produce a significant economic impact on the region, taking advantage of the millions of riders per year who board the Staten Island Ferry.

“The goal has always been to get the tourists off the boats. Once they get off the boats, they’ll go into the neighborhoods. But they’ve never really had a reason to get off the boats before,” said John Pitera of Casandra Properties. “This center will act as a springboard to get millions of tourists into the St. George area.”

The Staten Island Ferry itself is the third largest tourist attraction in New York City. But now, this project will help make Staten Island, and not just the boats, a tourist attraction, Pitera said.

Casandra Properties will provide the local market expertise for Harbor Commons, while its partner, EWB Development, the largest third-party provider of outlet services in the world, will provide its expertise in the industry. Pitera said the center will be “dynamically” designed, with a central courtyard featuring outdoor seating, direct views of Manhattan and connectivity from St. George to Richmond Terrace.

“The local market in Staten Island is tremendously underserved when it comes to retail,” Pitera said. “We’ll be keeping jobs here.”

The New York Wheel will be comprised of 36 capsules, each with a capacity of 40 passengers, for a maximum capacity of 1,440 people per ride, which will last for 38 minutes.

It’s expected to attract 4.5 million visitors per year.

Both The Wheel and Harbor Commons will strive for LEED certification, according to the mayor’s office, and it’s expected they will be predominantly powered by clean energy. The site will include a 950-space structured parking garage featuring a green roof with open space, solar panels and planted gardens.

“A Ferris wheel on Staten Island’s North Shore will give New Yorkers and tourists alike the opportunity to share the spectacular view of Manhattan’s skyline that Staten Islanders have enjoyed for decades,” Rep. Michael Grimm said. “I welcome this announcement that will bring thousands of well-paying construction and permanent jobs, business investment, and tourism to the under-developed St. George waterfront. This is the exact kind of private investment we need to spark our local economy, create jobs, and make Staten Island a destination site for all to enjoy this new iconic structure as well as the many other cultural experiences our borough has to offer.”