Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 22 July 2011 00:00
Major developments have been surfacing in Mineola over the past year. First, it was the long, drawn out process to get the Winston Manor residential complex off the ground. Now, a new research facility could grace the corner of Second Street and Mineola Boulevard if a special permit is granted to Winthrop University Hospital.
A team of lawyers, traffic and environmental experts, architects and hospital representatives presented an application to build a $60 million research facility to the board of trustees at the June 13 public hearing. The proposed four-story, .893 acre facility would house research development into obesity and diabetes as well as cardiovascular pulmonary related issues, Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) disease among others.
The building would total 95,000 square feet. Approximately 80,000 square feet has been allocated with 15,000 square feet yet to be determined.
The facility would be built where the current hospital’s outreach center stands. Also on the site is a former poison control center and additional offices associated with the hospital as well as the former La Cisterna restaurant.
The center would be absorbed into this current facility, where programs could be held. Hospital representatives estimated a construction completion two years after breaking ground.
Hospital officials said the primary focus of the facility would be concentrated on obesity and diabetes, two major issues in the state and the nation. Winthrop had recently been nationally recognized in its research in adult and pediatric diabetes.
Concerning public amenities to the village of Mineola, terms are still being negotiated this time.
Calling the Michael Balboni Bridge the gateway of Mineola, John P. Broder, vice president of External Affairs and Development said the hospital has called Mineola home for 111 years and wants to see the village continue to prosper. Mineola residents who work in the hospital represent $22.5 million of its payroll, according to Broder.
“We want to continue to prosper here and want the village to benefit from it,” he said. “As you know, Winthrop has grown significantly from the little 19 bed hospital that was built on the site in 1900.”
Broder said the hospital wants to consolidate the existing research laboratories on the property, specifically on the fifth and sixth floor located at 222 Station Plaza North. He cited additional space as a key to the research program.
“Other research would take place there as well,” he said. “There’s cardiovascular issues, and other research that could come out of diabetes research. We’ll be looking at research into chronic diseases. As we grow older, we recognize that the implications of diabetes in individuals who have it in the latter years of life, will become a more significant health problem.”
Mayor Scott Strauss raised concerns of Trustee George Durham, who was absent from the meeting, if any stores would have to close due to construction that would ensue if the application were approved. Bill Allan of Lend Lease, a construction management firm, stated no stores would have to close.
“We have a 24-month contract duration,” Allan said. “But no stores should have to close. We’re aware of the issues that could arise for businesses during construction, but we have planned with the businesses in mind. We’re prepared to work along with Winthrop and be a community liaison to make sure no problems come to business owners.”
Hospital representatives revealed that the hospital and construction teams would coordinate with local fire departments so that hospital roads are not blocked to incoming ambulances.
Kim Gennaro, environmental consultant of VHB retained by Winthrop, reported to the board that the proposed project meets the goals of the Master Plan of Mineola. She said the firm analyzed the surrounding buildings that are associated with the hospital and other approximated buildings that contribute to the “area of character.”
Her findings concluded that the building shouldn’t exceed 78-feet in height. Approximately 18 buildings in the area exceed this height with 15 located in Mineola and three in Garden City. This total includes the proposed Winston Manor residential complex on Old Country Road between Main Street and Willis Avenue.
“Eight have roof heights of 70 feet or greater, including the recently approved Winston building,” she said. “The building opposite the site on Mineola Boulevard has a building height of 70 feet.”
This project sits within the Willis Avenue corridor. This area was subject to much discussion in implementing the village’s Master Plan.
VHB traffic engineer Harold Lutz reported his findings on the impending traffic issues that could arise from construction. Lutz was previously commissioned by the Mineola School District in its traffic study of the surrounding area of the Cross Street School during the leasing process to Solomon Schechter Day School.
VHB conducted studies at 14 intersections in the surrounding area of the proposed site and existing hospital campus. Lutz said the study focused on peak traffic hours and emergency routes for ambulances.
“We were asked to determine the overall peak conditions and worst time periods of the day,” he said. “As part of that we also take that traffic and existing conditions and apply to the conditions that could exist once the facility is built.”
Winthrop expects to break ground during the spring of 2012. The board reserved decision to August.