The new owner of the old Cerro Wire site says it is eager to work with Oyster Bay leaders on a mixed-use development on land where the former owner fought for 19 years to build a luxury mall.
Michigan developer Taubman Centers Inc. announced Friday it had sold the 39-acre site in Syosset to rival mall developer Simon Property Group, which purchased the adjoining property from the town last year and promised to build a mixed-use development with little retail.
The sale announced Friday marked the end of a tortuous mall battle that Desmond Ryan, executive director of the Association for a Better Long Island, described as "a long regional nightmare."
Simon Property CEO David Simon said in a call with analysts Friday that "we are very interested in working with the Town of Oyster Bay . . . We're going to work with the residents, come up with the development plan . . . We think there is an absolute way to create a win-win for the community and for us."
"We are thrilled," said Todd Fabricant, chairman of the Cerro Wire Coalition, which opposed the mall from the start. "We look forward to working with the new owner to redevelop the property with an alternate development concept that is supported by the community and the town."
Town Supervisor John Venditto described the arrangement as "the right ending to a very long story. This is an example of the good things that happen when residents stand together with their elected officials to protect our quality of life. Going forward, the property will now be developed in partnership with local residents."
Many observers thought the Taubman project died last year when the town sold the adjacent 54-acre public works complex on the North Service Road of the Long Island Expressway to Simon and two partners for $32.5 million. The sale was made to raise needed cash and prevent a mall from competing with Simon's nearby malls.
Taubman lost two challenges to the sale, first in a referendum voters approved 2-1 last summer and then in court in October.
"Despite our best efforts and continuing enthusiasm for the opportunity, it became apparent that we were not going to be able to move forward anytime soon in Syosset with development of The Mall at Oyster Bay," said Robert S. Taubman, chairman of Taubman Centers. "Given the excellent progress we are making with a number of other properties in our development pipeline, we are pleased to be able to redirect our resources at this time."
Taubman said it sold the Syosset land and its interest in the Arizona Mills mall in Tempe, Ariz., which was co-owned by Simon in their only joint venture, to Simon in a deal valued at $230 million.
Taubman spokeswoman Barbara Baker said that while Taubman had sunk more than $180 million into the Syosset project, the company made a profit on the combined sale, which closed Thursday night.
Ryan, of the Association for a Better Long Island business group, said, "The question now is will a company known for building retail malls be allowed to build on this property for the purpose of creating jobs, investment and new tax revenue. I think some combination of retail, medical office and/or housing would be advantageous for that site."
Kevin Law, head of the Long Island Association, a regional business group, said the 93-acre site "is one of the most regionally significant parcels of land left to be developed on Long Island."
He said "something similar to a corporate campus like Canon's new North American headquarters [in Melville] would be great there, but a well-designed mixed-use plan could be appropriate as well."And Amy Engel, executive director of the nonprofit planning group Sustainable Long Island, said a mixed-use development on the site "could be a unique fit for the area due to the location's proximity to the LIRR and LIE."
Lee Koppelman, director of the Center for Regional Policy Studies at Stony Brook University, said the town and residents' desire for a mixed-use development "was a reasonable one. The last thing Nassau County needs is another mall."