Whole Foods and other grocers are in talks with the...

Whole Foods and other grocers are in talks with the new developer of Sun Vet Mall in Holbrook.  Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Whole Foods Market is among the grocers discussing becoming a tenant in the proposed redevelopment of Sun Vet Mall in Holbrook, according to the developer.

A Starbucks with two drive-thrus, one for mobile orders only, but no indoor seating also has been proposed for the redevelopment, attorney Anthony S. Guardino, a partner at Uniondale-based law firm Farrell Fritz P.C. who represents the developer, said during an Islip planning board meeting Wednesday night.

Blumenfeld Development Group Ltd., which signed a 99-year ground lease for the mall over the summer, submitted plans to the Town of Islip in October to redevelop the long-struggling mall as a shopping center.

“As evidenced by the extremely high vacancy rate, the retail mall concept just doesn’t work anymore.  So, what worked in the '70s really does not work today.  Retailers are not interested in having their storefronts face the interior of the building.  They all want visibility from the surrounding roadways,” Guardino told the planning board.

Built in 1973 at 5801 Sunrise Hwy., the once-bustling, 282,000-square-foot mall, which sits on 18 acres, has only four tenants left and is 92% vacant.

Sun Vet Mall, which has struggled for years, is largely vacant...

Sun Vet Mall, which has struggled for years, is largely vacant now, with only four tenants.  Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

Whole Foods is listed on the site plan that was submitted to the Town of Islip for the mall’s proposed redevelopment, and planning board chairman Edward Friedland referenced that during the Wednesday meeting, which included a public hearing, but Blumenfeld maintains that no agreement is in place for the high-end grocer to open a store at the Holbrook property.

“The company acknowledges that it is in discussions with Whole Foods, along with a number of other respected chain and independent supermarkets, that would serve the community and be an appropriate fit within our proposed repositioning of this retail property. To date, we have not finalized a specific supermarket tenant,” Blumenfeld said in a statement Thursday.

Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods Market IP Inc., which has six stores on Long Island, did not respond to Newsday’s requests for comment.

Starbucks Corp. did not confirm that it had any plans for a store at Sun Vet Mall.

“At this time, we remain focused on serving customers in Holbrook, N.Y. at our existing stores and have no store-opening plans to announce,” the Seattle-based coffee chain said.

Mall will shrink

Under the name BDG Sun-Vet LLC, Blumenfeld submitted a proposal to the town that includes demolishing sections of the mall.  The property would be reduced in size by 42%, from 282,000 to 163,000 square feet, but that would include six new outparcels.

Under the Syosset-based developer's plan, the main mall building would be converted to a 134,000-square-foot shopping center with seven tenants, including an anchor grocery store occupying 40,000 square feet, a 58,000-square-foot anchor, a 26,000-square-foot store and four small tenants ranging from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet.

The six new outparcels would have seven buildings: three banks, totaling 12,000 square feet, with drive-thru lanes; a 3,500-square-foot sit-down restaurant with 100 seats; a 2,845-square-foot fast-food restaurant with 74 seats and a drive-thru lane, the 1,512-square-foot Starbucks, and a 7,000-square-foot retail and medical/dental building.

Blumenfeld is requesting a change of zoning for the mall — from the current split-zoned Business 3 and Industrial Corridor District to just Business 3. 

The entire mall was originally in Business 3 when it was built.  When the town created the Industrial Corridor District years later, it changed the zoning classification of the portion of the mall property located adjacent to Veterans Memorial Highway to ICD, Guardino said.

“When it did so, the existing shopping center became nonconforming because the ICD prohibits most retail uses.  [Blumenfeld] needs to have the entire site classified Business 3 District in order to advance its redevelopment plan,” he said.

Special permits sought

The developer also is requesting two town board special permits for two fast-food restaurants, a planning board special permit for the sit-down restaurant, and three planning board special permits for drive-thru windows for banks.

In response to a resident who spoke at the public hearing about the need for high-quality anchor stores, not small tenants like vape shops, at the mall, Guardino said Blumenfeld was investing millions of dollars into upgrading the property.

“I can assure the neighbor that it won’t be a vape shop.  There is significant interest by some … national retailers and I think she will be happy,” he told the board.

Several planning board members said they supported redeveloping the mall but expressed concerns about potential traffic issues associated with the drive-thru lanes.

“This shopping center has been in horrible condition for a long time, so we look forward to getting it upgraded and getting it working better for the community,” Friedland said.

The board reserved its decision on the redevelopment plans, in order to allow town staff and Blumenfeld to address the comments about traffic concerns.

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