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Re-evaluating a blighted site

Town, community to discuss future of undeveloped parcel

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The property at the northwest corner of Merrick Road and Grand Avenue has had a few promising chances to be transformed in recent years by developers looking to remake it. Each time, a meaningful development has failed to come to fruition. Now the Town of Hempstead and Baldwin have gone back to the drawing board.

Last month, town officials sent a letter to the Breslin Realty Development Corp. — the company most recently awarded the rights to develop the site — notifying it that its services had been terminated. “We’ve broken off negotiations with Breslin,” said George Bakich, commissioner of the town’s Department of Planning & Economic Development, “and we’re re-evaluating how we’re going to move forward on this.”

This isn’t the first time that development at the site has undergone a re-evaluation. In 2006, after years of neglect, the parcel was designated as blighted, which, Bakich explained, opened up the possibility that the town could use a claim of eminent domain to take over the strip of stores on the property, along Grand Avenue, if a developer was unable to negotiate a buyout with the landlords. While three separate developers have been unable to make anything happen since then, the town has held off on claiming eminent domain, which can be costly and take years in court.

The town sent out its first request for proposals to developers in 2007, a second in 2009 and a third in 2012. Each time, the company that was awarded the development rights was unable to turn its plans into reality. “Each time, the developer that was chosen … wasn’t able to come up with a plan to acquire the properties that they felt would be economically feasible for them,” Bakich explained.

Most recently, Breslin — the lone company that responded to the 2012 RFP — had plans to build a pharmacy on the property. Breslin did not return a call seeking comment.

Also complicating matters at the site is something drivers and pedestrians never see: According to Bakich, a storm drain to Silver Lake runs underneath the town parking lot, and nothing can be built on top of it. “It’s a complicated thing,” he said.

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