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The Town of Hempstead Board recently adopted the report of the town's planning board for the urban renewal of the Argo Theatre area in Elmont so that the town board has acknowledged the planning's board findings that the area is suitable for urban renewal and the urban renewal plan for the area is consistent with the community visioning plan.

The area identified as the Argo Theatre area includes 2.91 acres located on the south side of Hempstead Turnpike between Elmont Road and properties opposite the intersection of Plainfield Avenue; east of the property containing a county water facility, west of Elmont Road and north of Foster Meadow Lane. The area currently has commercial and parking uses.

"This is a major step in the process of securing Elmont's future according to the community's wishes," Hempstead Town Supervisor Kate Murray said. "We are working to beautify the former Argo Movie Theatre area and to bring a much-needed commercial business to Elmont."

The plans seeks to redevelop land that is considered to be blighted and underutilized by the planning and development consulting firm of Saccardi & Schiff, which prepared a blight study for the area.

"The people of Elmont have indicated their desire to bring new businesses to this location," said Hempstead Town Councilman Edward Ambrosino.

The plan calls for redeveloping the properties, which includes spaces used as retail stores, for the purpose of having a 40,000 square foot supermarket.

The plan calls for the town to acquire the properties and demolish the structures. If the town cannot acquire the properties by offering fair market value, the town would have to commence eminent domain proceedings. The Town of Hempstead Department of Planning and Economic Development would be responsible for the overall administration of relocation activities, according to the urban renewal plan.

Elmont Coalition of Sustainable Development co-chair Sandra Smith was pleased that the Town of Hempstead took the next step in the revitalization of the area. "The community wants it so desperately it's unbelievable," said Smith of a first class supermarket. "People will stop leaving the area. Just about everybody I know leaves Elmont and shops someplace else."

Smith believes a top-notch supermarket with elements such as landscaping and lighting would help beautify the area and fit in with what the Elmont Coalition for Sustainable Development is trying to do to revitalize Hempstead Turnpike. "We started working together as a group four years ago. A lot of people that are part of this coalition have lived in Elmont for 20, 30 or 40 years and they came in, kicking and screaming, believing that nothing would ever get done because they were so used to Elmont being treated as a stepchild. But in the four years, the amount of work we've been able to accomplish and move things forward has been astounding," she said.

Smith also pointed out that the $2.5 million in state funding secured by Senator Dean Skelos and Assemblyman Tom Alfano for the site will not go to waste.

"This is good news for the Elmont community. The $2.5 million in state funding I was able to help secure for the site will now be_put to work. Our focus with the Argo site should be a first-class_grocery store that will not only serve the needs of the Elmont_community, but create jobs. This is the first step in a revitalized_Hempstead Turnpike corridor," said Alfano. "I'm also very excited that this will be a_site that will be able to utilize the Empire Zone that I was able to_help secure with Senator Dean Skelos and then Governor Pataki. Elmont_is on the move."

While some believe Elmont may be on the move, the store owners in the area believe they shouldn't be forced to move. Norman Gerber, a planning consultant who testified on behalf of the store owners during a hearing in September, reiterated his belief that the area is not blighted and shouldn't be taken by the town for urban renewal. "People may not like it, but it's not blighted," he said of the area.

Gerber said the area doesn't meet the conditions needed for an area to be considered blighted. "Are there some issues? Of course. Would you like to have some signs smaller than they are and some façade improvements? Absolutely. But you can do that anywhere on Long Island, especially along Hempstead Turnpike in other areas," he said. "Assuming it was blighted, which it's not, did they ever consider any kind of rehabilitation to anything? No. They said it's blighted; we're taking the whole thing for a supermarket."

The town board has adopted the planning board's report that the site was suitable for urban renewal, but still has to adopt the urban renewal plan itself and then proceed with the acquisition and redevelopment of the properties.


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