To turn a merely existing downtown into a thriving one. Congestion along Main Street doesn't always translate to business for the merchants along the nearly-mile-long stretch from Port Washington Boulevard to the waterfront. Although the downtown has an LIRR station off Main Street, one of the biggest problems has been a lack of parking for the station and surrounding businesses. Main Street also has mixed-use buildings with commercial space below apartments, but the apartments are outdated, and many of the businesses sit vacant, residents said.
Mindy Germain, executive director of Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, said the business façades need a more consistent look with more modern, condo-style residences above them. Germain said some residents also would like to break Main Street into themed districts based on existing merchants. One area could include businesses devoted to arts and antiques, while another might be based more on restaurants with cuisines from different cultures.
Experts and officials agree that the biggest hindrance is trying to get a consensus among residents.
In 2005, residents participated in a series of meetings hosted by the Town of North Hempstead to create a visioning plan. A hotel and additional parking were among some of the items at the top of their list. But in 2007, a proposed boutique hotel at the lower end of Main Street was rejected by residents concerned about the impact on traffic and density. They also wondered whether the hotel - three stories, containing 46 rooms and a conference center on a one-acre site - would clash with the surrounding buildings. And last year a proposed two-story parking garage on South Bayles Avenue near the train station drew fierce opposition. Many cited safety and traffic concerns.
The town has sent out a request for proposals to design a shuttle system to take people from designated areas to and from the LIRR station. The shuttle could make stops along Main Street, thereby boosting foot traffic to the businesses there, North Hempstead town councilman Fred Pollack said. The town also may buy vacant properties to use for parking, he said.
Germain's group began efforts to beautify the downtown last year by starting Clean, Green Zone, where volunteers cleaned up, while the town offered recycling bins. The next step, she said, includes facade development.
In March, Nassau County picked Port Washington as a pilot community with the potential to be a "vibrant downtown." The county hired a consultant to evaluate the downtown and a meeting was held with community leaders.