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Editorial: Getting development right in Baldwin

Baldwin resident Cathy O'Leary, center, along with other

Baldwin resident Cathy O'Leary, center, along with other community residents, demonstrate at the site of future redevelopment of Grand Avenue and Merrick Road in Baldwin because of lack of vision in the current plan. (Jan.11, 2014) Credit: Newsday / J. Conrad Williams, Jr.

The Town of Hempstead for years has been trying to jump-start the redevelopment of Baldwin's downtown. Residents of the hamlet have made clear what they want: an enticing and walkable downtown similar to those emerging across Long Island. They envision a mixed-use development with apartments above stores that takes advantage of its proximity to the local railroad station. But repeated requests to developers to submit ideas have left the town considering the lone plan submitted in the latest go-round: a drive-thru CVS. That's not good enough, not by a long shot, and the town should not approve the project as currently pitched.

The first two requests for ideas to redevelop the blighted 5-acre area along Grand Avenue elicited promising proposals. The second, from the Albanese Organization, was exactly what Baldwin residents have been seeking. Hempstead officials extolled the plan and cited Albanese's successful redevelopment of Franklin Avenue in Garden City. But when push came to shove the town was unwilling to give the developer help in acquiring properties to move the project forward, and it died. Developers need to know a municipality is truly going to be a partner when things get tough. Hempstead's poor record on that front must improve.

At this point, the town should negotiate with the CVS developer to try to align the plan with the vision. The drugstore could be a suitable downtown anchor. But the store's set-back and its drive-thru, which would destroy any notion of walkability, must go. And if negotiations fail, the town should not settle. Hempstead officials must understand they played a role in only one proposal being submitted and should send a clear signal to developers that they are ready now to back up their words with appropriate action. And then they should once again invite developers to make pitches. The results might surprise them.

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