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Developer pulls plug on Key Food plan


While residents have been vocal about the need for a supermarket in North Baldwin, a developer pulled out of plans to open a Key Food where Pathmark used to be.

The space, at 1764 Grand Ave., which has been empty for more than a year, is zoned as a commercial property and spans roughly 171,000 square feet.

Town of Hempstead officials said the developer of the proposed supermarket filed an application in August 2018 to renovate the interior and convert the old Pathmark into a Key Food. The application was approved, and the town issued a permit a month later.

The developer, Pick Quick Baldwin LLC, had fulfilled all of the requirements to make the renovations and open the store. But on behalf of the developers, the architect for the site told the town recently that the company would not move forward with the opening because of “economics and a change in the business model,” town spokesman Mike Fricchione said.

“It was very disappointing to hear that the anticipated opening of a Key Food in Baldwin will not be going forward,” Hempstead Town Supervisor Laura Gillen and Councilwoman Erin King Sweeney wrote in a joint statement. “We are committed to economic development in Baldwin, and remain focused on moving quickly with the overlay zone project, and doing all we can to revitalize downtown Baldwin and remove any roadblocks that prevent developers from investing in the area.”

Residents and town officials alike have discussed the proposed revitalization of Grand Avenue and other areas of Baldwin. The Town Board’s plan would rezone parts of Grand Avenue, and roads such as Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road, to allow for new buildings, with retail on the ground floor and apartments on the upper ones, to be constructed without the need for variances from the town’s Board of Appeals.

In the past, required approvals have caused developments to fall through and hindered attempts to revive the downtown area. Similar efforts, officials said, have succeeded in the Village of Farmingdale and downtown Patchogue, both of which now have bustling main streets.

Officials said the initiatives to attract new businesses to the area have failed in recent years — in a downtown that has suffered economically for decades. The overlay zone aims to address the previous redevelopment challenges.

King Sweeney, a Wantagh Republican, announced the formation of the Blue Ribbon Panel on Rethinking Building and Zoning Codes last week. The panel was formed, officials said in a news release, in response to recent reports that New York state and Long Island have experienced an “exodus” of young people who are seeking more affordable housing elsewhere.

The panel was scheduled to meet on Monday, according to Gillen and King Sweeney. “The goal of the panel is to address the immediate need to modernize the town’s approach to zoning and building codes and to better serve our residents,” they said in the statement.

Additionally, King Sweeney was set to join the Baldwin Civic Association in hosting a Baldwin Community Town Hall on Monday at Baldwin Park, at 3232 South Grand Ave., although town officials were unsure what was to be discussed as the Herald went to press on Monday.

Gillen will also host a Community Town Hall at the Baldwin Public Library, 2385 Grand Ave., on June 25 at 7 p.m., so residents can learn how the town is working to improve the local neighborhood. The presentation will include updates on several key initiatives, including road and infrastructure projects, economic development, environmental protection, quality of life and town services, officials said in a news release.

“It’s absolutely detrimental to the Baldwin community whenever a large anchor tenant withdraws their development or leasing plans,” said Erik Mahler, Baldwin Chamber of Commerce president.

Residents took to social media to share their concerns, including asking where they will shop for groceries.

“Why purchase that property and pretend to build a Key Food only to stop the project just short of completion?” asked local resident Kathleen Desio. “Where are people up north going to shop?”

The developer did not immediately return a call requesting comment.

Anthony O’Reilly contributed to this story.