After spending millions of dollars to push forward the construction of two luxury condominium buildings on West Broadway, developer Kurt Wittek said earlier this week that he had no plans to abandon his more than five-year-long effort.
The developer 73rd Meridian Partners LLC is a partnership between Wittek Development LLC and Sackman Enterprises. Wittek, whose company, based in Fairfield, Conn., has done work elsewhere in New York state as well as in Ohio, Florida and California, has had setbacks in Long Beach, where he plans to tear down the dilapidated former Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, at 530 W. Broadway, and replace it with two seven-story buildings containing 112 units. The complex would also include several residential units on a second-level parking podium beneath the seven levels of condos.
At a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing several years ago, opponents expressed their disapproval of plans for a larger project calling for two 15-story buildings, so Wittek scaled it back to the current plan.
The price of the units would range from $800,000 to $3.5 million, he said.
The project remains before the zoning board, after the public comment portion was extended until Oct. 9. Wittek said he expected to receive a series of comments and questions from the board, which he must answer before further action can be taken.
“Are we frustrated? We are enormously frustrated,” he told the Herald. “But are we ready to throw in the towel? No. We think the city will see the wisdom of the project. We think we have been very responsive to the opposition. We have reduced the scope and the scale.”
Wittek said that the project would yield $1.1 million a year in taxes or the city, $1.4 million for Long Beach schools and $260,000 for Nassau County.
The Long Beach School District, which sent a letter to the zoning board in May, said that Wittek’s calculations of tax revenue considerably overestimate the financial benefit to the district. After doing its own analysis, the district opposed the project.
“Having consulted with the Board of Education, the District is supportive of the community groups in the immediate vicinity of the development who have expressed their opposition to the project,” Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Gallagher wrote in the letter. “We believe that their concerns about overdevelopment in the area are significant, and we support their opposition as key stakeholders and those most likely to be impacted by the development.”
In August, the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency approved Garden City developer Engel Burman’s proposal to build 200 condos and 238 apartments, along with a 1,000-space parking garage and some 6,500 square feet of restaurant and retail space, on the six-acre Superblock. Engel Burman received a 25-year, $52 million tax abatement.
Wittek said he was not requesting any tax abatement for his project, and added that it could be a positive for the city — the largest taxpayer in Long Beach after the Superblock project. He said he was “seeking to inform the public that there is more to this than just greedy developers.” Construction of the complex, which is expected to cost around $150 million, would, he said, bring 735 construction jobs and 56 permanent jobs, along with $8 million in annual local economic output.
In June, the developers, 73 Meridian Partners, presented a draft environmental impact statement, which residents and stakeholders were allowed to review and comment on. The project has faced criticism from residents who cite overdevelopment in the city.
Local Attorney Charles Peknic represents a group of residents who oppose the project. With Peknic’s guidance, they sent copies of a letter to the zoning board detailing their opposition. “As was brought out in the hearing, I object to this alternative, because [it] only minimally reduced the variances they are requesting,” the letter states, adding that the new plan will still seek variances on height, open yards, density, building area and front setback from the beach, which was why they remained opposed to it.
Wittek, however, said he wanted to dispel the myth of overdevelopment, and added that the project would help the city financially.
In a letter to the zoning board, the Chamber of Commerce expressed its support for the project. “We recognize the need for economic development in the city of Long Beach,” the letter stated, “and look forward to seeing the developments coming to fruition.”