Hempstead Town has received a $500,000 state grant toward its economic development plan for the Elmont-Belmont Park area, money that could be used to acquire blighted properties.
The town was awarded the grant by Empire State Development last month after submitting a redevelopment proposal that revolves around the construction of a 35,000-square-foot supermarket on the former Argo Theater property in Elmont's commercial district. The firm chosen to develop the 2.9-acre site on Hempstead Turnpike and Elmont Road pulled out last summer, forcing a search for a new developer. Some civic leaders have mixed reactions about building a supermarket in an area town officials describe as a "food desert."
The town board adopted an urban renewal plan for Elmont in 2010 that called for acquisition of four properties on the site and the demolition and relocation of existing businesses there. The four property owners objected, but town officials have said they would deem the properties blighted or underused and seize them under eminent domain if necessary.
The grant will help make the area "more vibrant and successful," Supervisor Kate Murray said.
Acquiring the properties would cost about $6 million and development about $7.3 million, according to the proposal. The project would create 100 construction jobs and 150 permanent jobs.
"This grant funding is great news for the Elmont community," said Sandra Smith, chair of the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development. "Our collective efforts are paying off."
The project has received $4 million from private and grant sources for acquisition, but the town asked Empire State Development for an extra $2 million for purchases and $600,000 to create 50 added parking spaces scattered across the Argo site.
"We were in competition with the entire state, so we were very fortunate to get what we did," said George Bakich, commissioner of the town's planning and economic development department, adding the town released Monday a request for proposals seeking a new developer.
A state spokesperson said grant recipients "generally" have two years to undertake projects after being funded.
"My belief is that the Town of Hempstead has a bad record when it comes to economic development and nothing new will ever happen," said Pat Nicolosi, president of the Elmont East End Civic Association.
The project's scope will be decided when the state moves forward with its development plan at nearby Belmont Park, town spokesman Michael Deery said. The town's plan includes business storefront facade upgrades, streetscape beautification and local infrastructure improvements, Deery said.
"You will see activity in the Argo Theater area this summer," Bakich said.
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