Hempstead hosts hearing on development plan
The Village of Hempstead will hold a public hearing Tuesday night on the proposed overlay zoning for its $2 billion downtown revitalization project, to be followed by a vote at a special meeting on July 9.
The proposed overlay zoning will not replace existing zoning. Instead, property owners can choose to "opt-in" to the overlay zoning, which will permit mixed-used development -- something forbidden under the current zoning code.
Mixed-use allows single buildings or multiple properties to be used for more than one purpose -- for example, one building could contain residential and commercial space.
"We want to encourage young professionals, retailers and artisans to produce what they're selling and live within the same structure, which will likely be more financially feasible for a family," said Donald Monti, chief executive of Renaissance Downtowns, the project's master developer.
The existing single-use zoning inhibits the area's potential economic growth, according to Monti. Developers say they hope the incentive of mixed-use development will encourage property owners to opt into the proposed zoning.
The overlay zone divides the downtown into four districts: hospitality and entertainment, transit, commercial transition (smaller commercial buildings with some housing) and downtown edge (largely residential).
Monti said the project will be transit-oriented, taking advantage of the nearby LIRR train station and MTA bus terminal.
To opt into the overlay zoning, property owners must agree to the terms of a community benefits agreement currently being negotiated.
Mayor Wayne Hall Sr. recently set up a committee to receive input from a cross-section of villagers, produce the agreement and hold developers accountable throughout the project.
The agreement will specify the number of construction and permanent jobs as well as local contracts, Monti said. Community activists have demanded the agreement also include requirements for affordable housing, jobs for local residents and opportunities for minority and women-owned village contractors.
Monti told Newsday he hopes the agreement will be passed in the next 60 to 90 days. A combination of federal and state grants and mainly private investment will fund the project, town officials said.
The downtown project stalled in 2007 due to residents' concerns about the consequences of urban development, such as displacement and gentrification -- concerns that linger.