Grand Ave. improvement plan moving forward

Town to seek request for qualifications from developers for site


The Town of Hempstead will slightly modify its procedure for finding a developer for the blighted property at the corner of Grand Avenue and Merrick Road.

The town will issue a request for qualifications from potential developers of the parcel rather than a request for proposals. This new request is expected to go out within a few weeks.

Developers have responded to requests for proposals three times since 2007, but for various reasons, none of the requests yielded a positive result. Now, with the request for qualifications, the town hopes to gather all of the parties involved — potential developers, property owners, lawmakers and others — in one room to discuss the project.

Erin King Sweeney, the town board member who has been working with community leaders on plans for the site, said that town planners are trying to craft the language of the request for qualifications a bit more broadly. “We hope it encourages people to attend the meeting,” said Sweeney, a Republican. “We can’t guarantee a different outcome, but we hope to create an environment to encourage people who are interested to come.”

In 2006, the property was designated as blighted after years of neglect. That made it possible for the town to claim eminent domain to take over the strip of stores along Grand Avenue. But even though efforts to redevelop the site were unsuccessful, the town has held off on the eminent-domain option.

One major problem at the site is Silver Lake, which runs underneath the town-owned parking lot behind the plot, and which prevents further construction on top of it.

So far, those involved in the redevelopment project remain open to a range of options for the site, although Chamber of Commerce President Erik Mahler’s suggestion of a pedestrian-friendly development with retail shops on the ground level and residential units upstairs seems to be among the more popular ideas. “That would be the most economical idea,” he said.

Nassau County Legislator Laura Curran noted that the development of the community is hampered by its long, narrow outline. “The problem with Baldwin is it’s shaped long, like a lozenge, said Curran, a Baldwin Democrat. “East and west is so narrow, and that’s where the natural center is. There’s more there than in the middle.”