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Amityville looks for downtown developers to help village imagine its future

Amityville is seeking to reinvent itself. This is

Amityville is seeking to reinvent itself. This is the downtown business district along Route 110, as seen on Oct. 30, 2015. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Amityville Village is looking for developers to do business in its downtown, a tentative step toward what could be dramatic changes in the area, officials say.

"Amityville is open for business. Now we're going to find out is anyone interested in us?" said Tom Howard, co-chairman of the village's Downtown Revitalization Committee.

The DRC is sending out requests for qualifications to major Long Island developers, including Albanese, Tritec and Renaissance Downtowns, to gauge interest in a stretch of the Route 110 corridor from Sunrise Highway to the north, and south to the historic district.

Babylon Town has recently pushed similar work, on a grander scale, in Wyandanch, East Farmingdale and Copiague, where the creation of a downtown zoning district started in 2007 and finished this year. Amityville Mayor James Wandell suggested in a recent Village Board meeting that he wanted to move faster than that: "We don't have eight years," he said.

The area under consideration for redevelopment in Amityville includes about 60 parcels with 40 owners, with parcels of municipally owned land including the Amityville Library parking lot. Among the sites is the mostly empty 7.67-acre former Brunswick Hospital location. Officials have encouraged development of that privately owned site, once the largest source of property tax dollars in the village, for years.

Elsewhere is little open land but many parcels have low-slung buildings that could be redeveloped. The entire area is within walking distance of the village's Long Island Rail Road station, which could attract developers considering projects with a residential component.

This first step will cost the village nothing and brings with it no commitment to any project, officials said.

"We will see if we can match up with a master builder who shares our vision of where the village is headed, what we want to look like in five to 10 years," Wandell said.

After village officials have evaluated the submissions, a more targeted request for proposals will go out to selected developers. Final submissions will go to the Village Board for evaluation, likely by next spring, Howard said.

Warren Cohn, DRC co-chairman, described the request for qualifications as a chance for the village to send a message to potential partners: "Here's a community actively seeking out what my needs are with respect to investment."

Downtown rezoning is likely, Howard said, easing density, parking and building height requirements and allowing for mixed uses, all changes that could make the area more attractive to developers.

Cohn said there appears to be broad support for some of those changes, based on a DRC open house at Village Hall last month, with particular interest in changes that could lead to more housing for younger residents.

But consensus on downtown redevelopment may be difficult to achieve. Plans for apartments and artists' studio space in the area stalled this year over cost concerns, but not before drawing objections from residents who said it would ruin the village's small-town feel. Such projects, they warned, would turn the friendly village by the bay into something like the borough of Queens.

Howard said those fears were misplaced. "I can see into the crystal ball, 2040, and I wish these people could. It will be a vibrant downtown, it will still look like Amityville, with its character and charm, but it's going to be a transit-oriented, vibrant downtown area."

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