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Baldwin downtown revitalization talks to resume

Planning meetings set to continue Aug. 19

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The Baldwin Downtown Revitalization Initiative, for which the community received a $10 million grant from the state last year to overhaul the long-struggling downtown, is set to resume this month — remotely — after a months-long pause because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“For the health and safety of the [Local Planning Committee] members, and members of the community, all remaining DRI meetings will be held virtually,” Lou Bekofksy of VHB Engineering, a consulting team helping to draw up plans for the downtown, wrote in an email to LPC 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 next LPC meeting is scheduled for Aug. 19, when, Bekofsky said, the remaining DRI schedule and meeting format will be discussed further.

“Please make every attempt to attend this meeting, as we will be covering a lot of ground,” he wrote in the email, “including a recap of the last LPC meeting, an update on activities that have taken place over the past few months and the current status of each of the project submissions.”

The committee will also be tasked with deciding on a proposed project list to be presented at the next DRI community meeting to seek public input, he continued.

“The remainder of the DRI process is going to move quickly as we work together towards submission of a Final Strategic Investment Plan to the state,” Bekofsky said. The original deadline for submission to the state was April 24.

“We’re glad that the process has restarted,” said Dave Kapell, of the Regional Economic Development Council, who serves as the LPC co-chair. “We lost some momentum when we shut down. On the other hand, the pause had the beneficial effect of allowing the consultants to generate additional interest in transit-oriented development projects so they now can be included in the discussion. To that extent, it was positive.”

Kapell said he is looking forward to the process restarting with the next LPC meeting, and added that the new submission deadline is expected to be in the fall. “I’m optimistic that we’ll come to a positive conclusion with some good projects.”

LPC co-chair Don Clavin, the Town of Hempstead supervisor, did not respond to a request for comment.

Department of State officials, who have worked with the consultants and Hempstead Town, said that all LPC meetings and DRI public events are open to the public.

“There will be outreach to the public to inform them of how to participate in the various meetings,” a Department of State spokeswoman told the Herald. “This outreach will be provided through multiple channels and should be widely distributed.”

Specific information on how to take part in the virtual meetings was not yet confirmed at press time Monday, but would be supplied to the LPC members and the broader public soon, the spokeswoman explained.

Additionally, the Baldwin Chamber of Commerce last week launched a petition supporting development in Baldwin, specifically the potential Breslin Realty mixed-use project slated for the corner of Sunrise Highway and Grand Avenue.

“Our Baldwin community is in dire straits because of the implementation of restrictions on redevelopment in Baldwin,” Chamber members wrote on Facebook, referring to Hempstead Town adopting density limits earlier this year that people with knowledge of area real estate said could hinder large developments like the Breslin one.

The petition had garnered 186 signatures as of 12:40 p.m. Thursday. It can be found at www.ipetitions.com/petition/support-of-baldwin-overlay-mixed-use-project?.