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Officials submit about a dozen proposals to revitalize, develop downtown Baldwin

Some shops are closed on Grand Avenue between

Some shops are closed on Grand Avenue between Merrick Road and Sunrise Highway in Baldwin, as seen on Friday. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

Hempstead Town officials have submitted to state officials about a dozen proposals to revitalize and develop downtown Baldwin.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo awarded $10 million last year to the Town of Hempstead after the Long Island Economic Development Council recommended to state officials developing Grand Avenue in Baldwin between the LIRR station near Sunrise Highway and Merrick Road.

Hempstead officials held several public meetings and solicited plans from developers worth up to $15 million to submit for state approval. State officials are expected to review the plans next month, including mixed-use retail and apartments, and make recommendations for the town to move forward.

"For the longest time, Baldwin has been looking for real change and growth in downtown and hungry for it and redevelopment," Hempstead Supervisor Don Clavin said. "I look at it and see a great community with access to the train station and major roads and this is the place to start."

Planning on the downtown project was paused from March to September because of the pandemic. Then proposals were finalized after a pair of virtual meetings aimed at beautification efforts, such as bicycle and pedestrian improvements, and attracting investments and development near publicly owned properties.

"I think you’ve given an opportunity for various developers and builders to see what potential can be built there and attract a great mix of businesses and ideas," Clavin said.

Cuomo cited Baldwin’s proposal last year, including transit-oriented development and an 87-acre rezoned overlay plan. Under former Supervisor Laura Gillen, the town had submitted the plan to improve traffic and parking, pedestrian walkways and street beautification and encourage mixed-use buildings with apartments and businesses.

The town qualified for the state’s $10 million annual downtown revitalization initiative last year, which had previously been awarded to Westbury and Hicksville. The state did not offer a downtown award this year, but town officials said the funding in the budget for Hempstead was secured to move forward.

The Town Board added density limits in February, capping apartments near the LIRR station at 60 units per acre and at 30 units per acre farther down Grand Avenue, at the request of the Baldwin Civic Association.

Developers have struggled for the past two decades to redevelop Baldwin after multiple master developers bowed out after they could not agree on plans to build on Grand Avenue.

The town changed its approach in recent years to attract multiple developers for each individual property, rather than one sweeping plan for the entire Grand Avenue corridor.

Former Greenport Mayor David Kapell has been spearheading the town’s project following working on other redevelopments in other communities, including Greenport, Westbury and Patchogue, to create a vibrant downtown with restaurants, transit-oriented apartments and mixed development.

Kappell said the town was struggling to attract mixed-use developers before the pandemic, but the pause increased demand in suburban redevelopment.

"If these projects get built, you’re bringing new residents into downtown and circulate in the streets and do business in the stores," Kapell said. "All of these downtown initiatives have a set of projects individually considered by the state for funding. We’ve presented a menu of projects to the state to look at what they think is the best to fund."

Baldwin downtown revitalization

$10 million state grant

87-acre overlay zone

Grand Avenue from Sunrise Highway to Merrick Road

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