A proposed expansion of Melville Mall would add a 15,000-square-foot building to the 21-acre shopping center on Route 110, but area residents pushed back at a recent public hearing, saying the project would negatively affect their community.
The mall owner, Federal Realty Investment, of Rockville, Maryland, has applied for variances from Huntington Town’s Zoning Board of Appeals to build two mixed-use retail and restaurant buildings, according to officials representing the company at the Jan. 19 hearing.
Nearly a dozen residents attended the meeting, voicing their opposition to the project at the shopping area on Walt Whitman Road north of the Northern State Parkway.
“Federal Realty has shown a level of contempt and disregard for this community that is nothing less than unconscionable, egregious and flagrant,” said Leslie Wolff, a resident of Melville’s Country Village neighborhood, just north of the mall.
Wolff and others said the project was too big for the area and likely to create more traffic flow problems at the already busy intersection of Walt Whitman Road and Fletcher Place.
“It would affect the quality of life and the value of properties,” she said.
The new buildings would separately add 4,300 square feet and 10,700 square feet of commercial space to the front of the existing shopping area on the 2.5-acre site, said Michael McCarthy, a Huntington-based attorney representing the company in the application. The mall currently houses several stores, including Dick’s Sporting Goods and Macy’s Backstage.
He said the buildings would “functionally work together as one,” with the inclusion of a plaza between the two new buildings.
“The Melville Mall . . . has just been old and antiquated, and not really been used to its potential,” McCarthy said at the hearing.
He said the variances were critical to modernize the shopping center and “create some flexibility of design and create some space.”
The expansion would help the mall become a more competitive retail and restaurant destination. Competition from online retailers has made it more important than ever for brick-and-mortar retailers to create shopping atmospheres that can draw customers, he added.
McCarthy said Federal Realty has no plans to allow fast food restaurants or drive-through businesses in the new buildings.
The zoning board closed the matter to further discussion after the public hearing and has 62 days — until March 22 — to issue a decision. Board members could extend the decision-making time with the consent of Federal Realty.
If approved, the proposal would next need to obtain site plan approval from the Huntington Town Planning Board. It may also need approvals from some Huntington Town departments, depending on the final plan.