As a supporting petition made its way around the room collecting signatures, a Breslin Realty representative described updates to a large mixed-use project slated for Grand Avenue and Sunrise Highway at a Baldwin Chamber of Commerce meeting on Nov. 11.
A couple of dozen people in the grand ballroom of the Coral House heard from David Orwasher, chief development officer for Breslin Realty, a commercial development firm.
“We’re intending to develop a multi-family, ap-proximately 200-unit, mixed-use development on that property,” Orwasher said of the site, which now houses an auto storage lot that residents have called a poorly maintained eyesore that depresses property values for neighboring homes and businesses.
Orwasher said that he and his team have spoken with chamber leaders, Baldwin Civic Association representatives and concerned residents and business owners to navigate their way through the process and determine “what suits everyone’s needs.”
While the coronavirus pandemic has interrupted the process significantly, he noted, team members are welcoming feedback and developing more advanced plans.
The original plans for the property, which measures about 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 feedback from folks here and elsewhere is it’s a little too intense,” Orwasher said, “so we dialed it back.”
The new plan is to build 200 units. Residents and members of the Local Planning Committee, a group of area leaders mapping out redevelopment of downtown Baldwin as part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, have said the project is too large and is reminiscent of the city, with its tall buildings. At the same time, others have enthusiastically supported the project, saying Baldwin needs such a development.
Chamber members have advocated for the project, and in July launched a petition to support it, which has since garnered about 750 signatures.
“We’re trying, frankly, to be responsible and responsive to everything that was articulated,” Orwasher said, “and to hear everyone’s collective feedback.”
“This space has been a huge blight for our town,” an anonymous community member wrote in an online survey that collected feedback on revitalization projects. “It is a good use of funds and is desperately needed to enhance the town and improve the look of Sunrise Highway as people pass through.”
For months, residents, consultants, and state and Town of Hempstead 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 coincide with the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, for which Baldwin received a $10 million grant from the state last year to revitalize the downtown area, which runs along Grand Avenue, beginning near the Long Island Rail Road station, where the Breslin Realty project would be built.
Breslin Realty has opted in to the DRI process, requesting $2 million of the funds. And while state representatives are required to choose which DRI projects to OK, even if the project were to be approved, it would still have to go through the necessary zoning procedures with the town.
The Breslin team, Orwasher said, has hired an engineering firm and is developing a site plan to submit to the Town of Hempstead Building Department for review. The developer would need to seek a variance on the number of units, since there is a 60-units-per-acre limit in the code, Orwasher said.
But because the town board calendar is backed up because of the pandemic, he added, it could take up to a year for the project to be reviewed.
The project would also include parking and retail space, including two levels of parking on site so that 100 percent of the required parking is contained on the property.
The building would also be set back on the property to allow for green space and pedestrian access from the street, like a small park, and would include a water feature.
Rita Shah Batheja, a nutritionist in Baldwin, asked how much the units would sell for.
“They’re rental units,” Orwasher said. “They’re intended to be market rents. I’m not quite sure exactly where they are . . . It’s intended to be something that I would think that Baldwinites, and most people, would be proud of. We think it would be an asset to not only Baldwin, but all of Nassau County and Long Island.”