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Town grant program subsidizes costs to update businesses in Copiague

Babylon's guidelines call for reducing "visual clutter" with uniform design standards and offer some reimbursement to business owners, who must apply for the subsidies.

A commercial building on Great Neck Road in

A commercial building on Great Neck Road in Copiague, seen here Wednesday, is among the businesses slated for a makeover funded by the town. Photo Credit: Johnny Milano

The Town of Babylon has established a program that will direct grants to property owners in downtown Copiague seeking to spruce up their building facades with new materials, signs and other design upgrades.

The Downtown Copiague Facade Improvement Program, inaugurated at a town board vote July 19, is the latest stage in Babylon's protracted campaign to create a lively, pedestrian-oriented neighborhood around the district's modest commercial corridor. 

Town officials hope the subsidized facade face-lifts, by adhering to uniform design standards developed last year, will forge a cohesive architectural aesthetic that will tie the hamlet together.

“These initial facade improvement projects are really important in the revitalization of downtown Copiague,” Amy Pfeiffer, director of Babylon’s Office of Downtown Revitalization, wrote in an emailed statement. “I believe residents of Copiague and the Town of Babylon at large are going to enjoy the changes that result from these investments.”

The project began last summer with the creation of facade design guidelines for downtown Copiague by the town-hired firm In.Site:Architecture, of upstate Perry.

The guidelines call for property owners to reduce “visual clutter” by following common standards for materials, lighting, windows and other areas of design.

The town then formed a committee to review applications from local buildling owners seeking the subsidies, according to Babylon spokesman Kevin Bonner. The committee prioritized applications that stuck closest to the guidelines, and approved grants to six properties on Great Neck Road late last year.

Bonner said that each will receive 75 percent of the cost of the improvements, up to $25,000, and that the first upgrade projects will likely be finished by the fall.

Scott Arenella is among the first grant winners. He will spend about $90,000 improving his mixed-use building on Great Neck Road and expects up to an additional $25,000 from the town for the project.

“I'm willing to go into my pocket to participate in that because I think it's going to be able to help everybody ultimately by being able to get more rent and better quality tenants,” he said. “I'm putting my money in it and counting on [Copiague] looking like Farmingdale,” Arenella added, referring to that village's burgeoning downtown.

Developers provided the funding for the program in exchange for zoning exemptions from the town for projects in Copiague, Bonner said. The town has to date received $250,000 from developers for the program and can expect more if additional developers seek exemptions in the neighborhood.

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