Leading up to a fourth public hearing on a proposed nine-story apartment and retail building in Downtown Mineola, developer Kevin Lalezarian showcased his plans to the village’s Chamber of Commerce at a breakfast presentation last Friday.
The Village Green, which would hold 266 apartment units with commercial space on the ground floor and a top-story penthouse, has been the subject of a series of contentious hearings and has taken on symbolic significance in the lightning rod issue of development of Mineola’s downtown.
Lalezarian, a principal of the firm Lalezarian Properties LLC, fielded questions on the proposal from the chamber at an early breakfast Friday, a week and a half before the next public hearing, which is scheduled for March 11.
“I think part of our job should be to keep the business community informed of what’s going on,” said Tony Lubrano, the first vice president of the Mineola chamber and owner of Piccola Bussola Restaurant. “It’s important for people to have as much information as possible.”
Lalezarian, who is also the developer of a 315-apartment building under construction at 250 Old Country Road, covered much of the same information as at past hearings, though he addressed charges he has not made efforts to employ local workers at 250 Old Country Road, a stipulation of the tax breaks granted to the projects by the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency.
“When you see people at hearings being disgruntled, it’s usually failed bidders,” Lalezarian said. “We go out to bid on any trade we do, and preference is always for local labor and for union labor.”
But, he added, local and union labor would still need to make competitive bids, based on qualifications, safety record and price.
“If you get multiple bids and somebody charges you twice as much for the same project, are you going to give the job to them?” Lalezarian asked.
He said most of the workers at 250 Old Country Road are from Nassau County and that he believed less than 5 percent were from out of state.
Lalezarian said he is seeking tax breaks from the IDA for the Village Green, which would allow the developer to pay progressively higher taxes for 20 years, after which it would pay full taxes on the building.
The total cost of the project would be about $100 million, or roughly $200 per square foot, which would make turning a profit difficult if he were to pay full taxes from the beginning, he said.
Lalezarian said his firm would also manage the property once construction is completed.
The horseshoe-shaped Village Green would have 112 one-bedroom apartments and 154 two-bedroom apartments, with restaurants on the ground floor at either wing of the building, he said.
Rents for 90 percent of the apartments would be market driven, he said, estimating the rent for a one-bedroom apartment would be between $2,300 and $2,500 per month and for a two-bedroom apartment would be between $2,800 and $3,000.
The remaining 10 percent of apartments would be set aside as affordable housing for households making up to a certain percentage set by the village board of the Nassau County median income, probably between up to 80 percent to 120 percent.
Several attendees questioned whether the rents were too high. One man said his son, who recently completed college, made $25,000 per year and would be unable to afford apartments at that price.
“It’s difficult to build new construction for somebody at a pay of $25,000,” Lalezarian responded.
He said the roof of the project would include a pool and green space for the restaurants on the ground floor and that he hoped construction could be completed by early 2018.
“I kind of like the idea. I got the feeling a lot of people in the room felt the same way,” Lubrano said of the project, adding that the feeling was not unanimous and a lot of the business owners had mixed views.
He said he believed building apartments would be better for the village than building office space.
“From the business part, I think it’s a good idea to have the building go up,” Lubrano said. I think that having a more vibrant downtown should increase everybody’s property value – mine as a business owner, but also residential.”
The Mineola Board of Trustees’ next hearing on the Village Green is scheduled for March 11 at 6:30 p.m. at Village Hall.