The next meeting of the state-funded Baldwin Downtown Revitalization Initiative, originally scheduled for Aug. 19, has been postponed to Sept. 9. It is to take place virtually.
Officials an-nounced the change last week, citing renewed interest from developers potentially seeking to build in the downtown area.
The redevelopment initiative, for which the community received a $10 million grant from the state last year to overhaul the long-struggling downtown, paused for a few months because of the coronavirus pandemic.
On July 29, representatives of VHB Engineering, a consulting team helping to draw up plans for the downtown, announced the restart of the planning process on behalf of the state and the Town of Hempstead.
“Following the announcement, it has become evident that there is a renewed interest in the revitalization of downtown Baldwin, and in the DRI process,” Lou Bekofksy, of VHB, wrote in an email to Local Planning Committee members.
The Local Planning Committee comprises community leaders and business owners in Baldwin who since last year have been discussing potential projects to incorporate into the plans. The new deadline for submission to the state is in October.
“Based on this feedback, the LPC co-chairs would like to ensure that there is ample opportunity for projects that may have been close to being finalized prior to the Covid-19 pause to be brought to the LPC for consideration,” Bekofksy explained.
Some LPC members criticized the postponement of the meeting, citing poor planning, and questioned developers’ interest in the area.
“We urge you to use this additional time to re-engage with potential project sponsors,” Bekofksy said in the email, “and if you [are] aware of projects that are ready for implementation, and would be suitable candidates for DRI funding, please encourage them to submit an application to VHB by contacting ARudow@VHB.com.”
Some residents inquired about the potential Breslin Realty project slated for the corner of Sunrise Highway and Grand Avenue.
“The LPC is the one that has to make the judgment on whether to put the Breslin project on the list at all,” said Dave Kapell, of the Regional Economic Development Council, who serves as one of the LPC co-chairs.
“One of the realities is that the Covid crisis has created a market dynamic that’s really fairly powerful,” he continued. “All of the suburbs are experiencing an inflow of people escaping the city, and this may be changing the market dynamic in a way that may be elevating interest in places like Baldwin. We figured it’s in our interest to extend the period of time for submissions for this brief period in order to allow anything else to come in.”
Kapell said that in addition to the Breslin project, there are two other transit-oriented developments that the LPC will need to consider moving forward.
Town of Hempstead officials urged Baldwinites to visit www.hempsteadny.gov/baldwin-dri for information about potential project updates and links to upcoming meetings.
Department of State officials also said the meeting was canceled “to ensure there are ample opportunities for projects to be brought to the LPC for consideration.”
“The Department of State is committed to supporting our DRI communities as they work to complete plans for downtown revitalization that reflect current conditions and changes since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic,” Department of State representatives said in a statement. “To this end, the LPC co-chairs are allowing additional time for project sponsors to bring forward new projects for consideration by the LPC.”