To better inform our readers, The Port Washington News set about updating the information about new developments on Main Street.
Lower Main Street, last reported on in the September 5, 2003 edition, has been a source of great interest among our readers. "An eyesore," is the way it is typically described by locals, most of whom who are anxious to see the site improved. Roy Smitheimer, executive director of the Business Improvement District (BID), said, "Almost anything would be an improvement." When we researched the 2003 article, an entity called Marine Promenade Development was reported to be looking to develop the property, which extends from approximately 310 to 326 Main Street (some of the buildings are not numbered), across from the Town Dock. Although we could not get direct confirmation of this, it would appear as if the plans to assemble the properties into one development have fallen through.
One of the properties, 320 Main, the former location of Walt and Walter's Auto Repairs and Ghost Motorcycle, will become the home of a new business: Port Tire and Auto Service. They will supply Goodyear tires, as well as complete auto care service. The owner, Nicholas Livadas of Manhasset, commented, "The name says it all." Construction is under way, and they expect to be open for business by early fall at the latest. Cow Bay Contracting is doing the construction. According to Joseph D'Alonzo Daniela Silva of Cow Bay contracting, that firm is not a principal in the new firm--simply a contractor.
Cow Bay is, however, a participant in the group seeking to develop 322-326 Main Street, where the previous building has been demolished-it had been deemed hazardous. Andrea Harvey of the LVM Group, spokesperson for the developers, said that the project was still in the design phase. The Vintage Group of 29 West 30th Street in Manhattan is the lead developer. Harvey said that they were not willing to divulge the plans at this time. "We are still in the design phase," she said, "but it will most likely include some residential."
Two other properties in that strip are for sale. On one side, the site at 310-312, formerly home of Old Times Trading Post, together with a three-bedroom house, is for sale by Prudential Real Estate in Huntington Station. Prudential's broker, Michael Murphy, confirmed that there is as yet no buyer. On the other side, 326 Main Street is listed for sale by Daniel Gale Real Estate.
The Vintage Group has also assembled a group of properties between Irma and Herbert, across from the railroad station, for a potential new development. All but one of the retail stores has either vacated or been asked to vacate. That one is the Port Main Fish Market, a tenant at 71 Main Street. Yoon Sung, owner/manager of the store, said that he had not been approached by the landlord about moving. He added that he has 41/2 years left on his lease. Interestingly, the previously mentioned Marine Promenade Development listed their address with the New York State Department of State as c/o Vintage Group, 71 Main Street.
Nina's Delicatessen at 75A Main is still open, but owner Gus Casarez of Nina's said that the landlord wants him to leave. Casarez, who has a lease, said that he is not going to move until and unless the property owner gives him sufficient financial incentive to do so. He said, "I have found three potential buyers for the business, but the landlord rejected them all, even though my lease is transferable." Casarez said that his lawyers are in discussion with the building owner. He added, "My business has fallen off, because people see all the closed-up storefronts and assume that I am closed as well." He wants his customers to know that he is still open for business.
Three businesses have moved. Port Vacuum and Appliance, formerly at 67, is relocating to 182 Main Street and expects to re-open on or about July 15. Ralph's Ices has moved from 75B to 292 Main and is open for business. Port Chemists has relocated from 69 Main to 4 Manorhaven Boulevard (near Ashwood) and is open for business. Sam Suzuki of Vintage Group said that Port Chemists had sold the building to Vintage. According to Terry Ventura, Port Chemists' manager, they had been renting on a month-to-month basis. Two businesses have apparently closed for good: Port Churasquito (no telephone listing) and Tanning Solutions (telephone disconnected). The only remaining business is Fleet Bank at 79, corner of Irma. Lenny Bonventre, AVP, Banking Center Manager, said, "No one has approached me. As far as I am concerned, we are not going anywhere. We just had the place renovated, and it's in an ideal place, across from the station." Bonventre, a Port Washington resident added, "I love this town." He also asked that we inform our readers that Fleet was recently bought by Bank of America and will be changing its name in the near future.
Suzuki, who resides in Port Washington, was unwilling to share any aspect of the proposal for that portion of Main Street. He said, "We are meeting with community leaders and the Town of North Hempstead to see what is acceptable to the community. Once we agree on a concept, we will file plans." He declined to specify with which "community leaders" he has met. Suzuki added that they intend to forge a design that is be consistent with the neighborhood and with the recently renovated railroad station. He said, "We will try to reflect the charm of the Port Washington community, and encourage the creation of a 'walking community.'" Suzuki added that the initial concept was for a modern "glass and steel" office building, but that was deemed inappropriate for that area.
Smitheimer said that his understanding is that the proposed development will be for mixed-use development that includes apartments above storefronts. The Town of North Hempstead building code prohibits such use (the current units were "grandfathered" in), so a new zoning regulation would be required. Smitheimer added that this type of use is consistent with the "smart" or "sustainable" growth being supported by many groups such as Sustainable Long Island. He said that, in general, this kind of use is looked upon favorably by the Town, as long as it is appropriate and acceptable to the community. So far as this particular development is concerned, Smitheimer said, "The initial feedback I have gotten is favorable." This kind of development is encouraged by "sustainable growth" planners because it provides more affordable housing (the storefront businesses help defray costs), decreased traffic (people can walk to shopping and the station), and enhanced economic development (pedestrian traffic on Main Street encourages shopping in local stores).
David Chauvin, communications director for the Town of North Hempstead, said that there have been neither permit applications nor building plans filed with the Town for this section of Main Street. Neither, to the best of his knowledge, have there been any formal discussions between the developer and Town officials. Supervisor Jon Kaiman was not available for comment, but at a recent visioning meeting in Port Washington, he expressed sentiments similar to those of Roy Smitheimer regarding mixed use in selected areas where appropriate and where desired by the community.
The Port Washington News will continue to keep our readers posted on new developments as we learn of them.