A sketch of what could be an alternative hotel proposal for the waterfront.
Rumors were afloat about a second hotel proposal for Port Washington, so the Port News set about to determine the truth. What Port News encountered was a man with a big dream for development of the waterfront, which may include a hotel as well as other attractions for residents and visitors. Erwin (as he prefers to be called), the owner of Main 415 restaurant, shared with this reporter some of his ideas for developing the area. "We are a destination place," Erwin said, "and we have nothing for people who come here." He hopes to change that.
The proposed project includes the site of the restaurant, as well as adjoining properties. Working with a commercial brokerage establishment, Erwin is currently in negotiation with the owners of those properties in an attempt either to purchase them or to interest their owners in participating in the development. The properties potentially involved include the site of Campbell's Carpet, Inspiration Wharf, and the Knickerbocker Yacht Club.
The plans, which are most definitely in the preliminary stage, currently include a 50-room hotel. Half would be single rooms and the other half suites with kitchenettes, and it would contain a conference room for about 40 persons. There would also be about 30 condos, a waterfront restaurant, and high-end retail stores. The hotel would be on stilts to allow parking underneath. The entire area, about four acres if all the other parties involved agree to sell or to participate, would be open to the public. Erwin said that the proposal includes a boardwalk that would extend to the town dock as well as a "jump-on-and-off" trolley to and from the railroad station. He commented, "I would like to create a small park with a café and benches and create some activity so people can make use of the waterfront. I want to make Port Washington an 'I want to go there' kind of place." He added that he would like to commemorate the beginning of commercial airline flight, possibly even by displaying one of the actual Pan Am Clipper Ships if he can acquire one.
Erwin estimated the total cost of the potential development to be $65 million, and said that he has lined up the financial backing for it. "It all has to be paid for somehow," he said.
Erwin said that he has had informal discussion with representatives of the town and Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington (RFMBPW). Speaking for the organization, RFMBPW Executive Director Jennifer Rimmer said, in part, "[We] believe the redevelopment of this property and the adjoining Inspiration Wharf are a wonderful opportunity for waterfront access and better use of these waterfront properties....We look forward to seeing the plans and to working with Main 415 on this exciting project." Councilmember Fred Pollack said, "I haven't seen any formal plans. When and if he submits a plan to the town, we will undergo the same process of public hearings and so forth as the other hotel." Supervisor Jon Kaiman, through a spokesman, expressed similar thoughts.
With respect to the Bradley hotel proposal, also on lower Main Street (see the Port Washington News June 29, 2006), Erwin said, "Let that play out. I don't want to interfere with their dream. I want people to have a choice. Let the best man win." He opined that Port Washington cannot support two hotels of that scope, and said that if the Bradley is approved, he will revise his plans to exclude the concept of a hotel. It would still include a restaurant and other features. The next step for the Bradley proposal is for the Town Board to set a date for a hearing by the board on the application that has been filed for a change of zoning for the residential strip at the rear of the site. Pollack predicted that the earliest the hearing would take place is September; most likely toward the end of September. Regarding the Main 415 site, the current zoning would permit a hotel "as of right," but would need a zoning variance for the proposed condos, and possibly a height variance to allow parking under the hotel.
Although Erwin's home is on the South Shore, he said, "I love Port Washington-the people here are so nice." He commented, "I want to see something happen here. I believe it will happen."
This reporter would like to add, as an aside, that the Main 415 restaurant (located, appropriately enough, at 415 Main Street) is delightful in the summer with an outdoor café right on the bay, a glass enclosed dining room, and live piano music.