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Lake Grove land sells -- after 25 years on market

About six acres of land at Dietz Avenue

About six acres of land at Dietz Avenue and Route 24 has been purchased for $4 million, with Brookhaven's development agency granting tax breaks and expecting 80 jobs to be created. (Dec. 23, 2013) Credit: Google

When real estate broker Marie Zere finalized the deal to sell a swath of land in Lake Grove in early December, all she could feel was relief.

It had been the longest listing of her career -- 25 years.

The 6.3 acre plot, on the corner of Dietz Avenue and Route 25 just blocks from the Smith Haven Mall, had been on the market since 1988, said Zere, the president of Ronkonkoma-based commercial brokerage Zere Real Estate Services.

The property sold for $4 million in a deal that closed Dec. 11. It was bought by Garden City-based developer Engel Burman Group, which intends to build a Bristal Assisted Living Facility on the land. Zere represented the seller, local landlord and businessman Les Raphan.

The land was once the site of a carpet store, which was razed in the early '90s. Developers came with plans for a movie theater, a shopping center and eventually an assisted living facility -- all fell through.

The process was further complicated by onerous zoning procedures, Zere said, and three recessions.

The movie theater proposal in the early '90s from operator National Amusements Inc. couldn't get approval from the village, Zere said. Before Engel Burman's purchase, Sunrise Senior Living had made a $5.5-million offer on the land in 2007, but financial difficulties amid the recession hampered the deal, she said.

"Any real estate broker that works in the development process knows that . . . on Long Island it is a grueling process no matter where you are," she said. "You have to be very patient, and you have to wait many years before you see any commission."

The $40-million Bristal facility will be a 125,00-square-foot, three-story building with 136 suites, said Steven Krieger, a partner at Engel Burman.

"We think it's a great location . . . it has good visibility, it's right near the mall," Krieger said.

Engel Burman expects to break ground on the project in January and open in February 2015. The Lake Grove facility will be the third Bristal in Suffolk County and part of the company's expansion into eastern Long Island, Krieger said.

The Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency has approved up to $44 million in tax-exempt bond financing and a property tax abatement for the development. The developer anticipates creating 80 jobs.

In its life on the market, the plot of land on Route 25 had been in contract three times, was subjected to two zoning changes and even saw a generational transfer.

In 2008, Zere handed over part of the listing to her daughter Michelle, who had joined her as a broker in the family business. (When the listing first went on the market, Michelle had just graduated from high school.)

"It was a joint effort," Zere said of the work with her daughter, adding Michelle's background in sales and marketing aided the process.

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