At the Sept. 15 Baldwin Chamber of Commerce meeting, a dozen business owners and residents gathered at Novi restaurant to hear David Orwasher, chief development officer for Breslin Realty, a commercial development firm, discuss site plans for a 215-unit, mixed-use development that the firm has proposed for Grand Avenue and Sunrise Highway.
The company has filed the plans with the Town of Hempstead Building Department for review. The structure, if approved, would measure four and a half stories tall.
Orwasher said Long Island has relatively few rental units that are affordable for empty nesters on fixed incomes and young professionals starting their careers. They “may want to stay on Long Island but can’t find affordable housing,” he said.
Units would include studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments starting at $1,800 a month, with 10 percent of units earmarked for workforce housing.
“We aren’t looking to place a burden on a school district,” Orwasher said. “What we’re looking to do is stop the migration outside of Long Island for lack of” housing.
The original plans for this $95 million structure, which would sit on 1.71 acres, called for about 240 residential units in a six-story building, but they have since been altered to reflect public input. The complex would offer a concierge service, on-site subterranean parking, 5,000 feet of restaurant and retail facilities, and a public park.
Karen Montalbano, of the Baldwin Civic Association, asked Orwasher whether the project would comply with town code. “We are conforming in all regards with one exception — with respect to the code developed units per acre,” Orwasher replied.
The town code limits developments to 60 units per acre for a seven-story building, which Orwasher said was a “sensible legislation, but the devil lies in the execution.”
“There is no benefit to suppressing commerce. You want to grow your tax revenue and you want to grow your business,” said Orwasher in response to the public preference for fewer units.
“We want development, not overdevelopment,” Montalbano later said.
For years, residents, consultants, and state and town officials have discussed potential developments for the Baldwin zoning overlay district, which has a temporary zoning code to encourage developers to build there and revitalize the struggling downtown. An overlay district tailors zoning requirements to a particular area to best encourage development with the least possible disruption by reducing obstacles for potential developers.
The efforts will, in part, be funded by the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, for which Baldwin received a $10 million grant to redevelop the downtown, which runs along Grand Avenue, beginning near the Long Island Rail Road station, where the Breslin Realty project would be built. The Breslin project would receive about $2 million from these funds.
Chamber President Erik Mahler said, “We fully support this project or any project that would be able to bring more consumers to the Baldwin areas.” Sanitation Commissioner Leroy Roberts echoed Mahler’s sentiment, saying, “It’s been 50 years, let’s do something in Baldwin already.”
Chamber members have advocated for the project, and in July launched a petition to support it, which has since collected about 750 signatures.
The next steps after architectural review of the application and potential acceptance as conforming, Orwasher said, would be a town hearing, which Orwasher said he hopes will occur before the end of year, barring any delays because of the November election.