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Nassau IDA Approves Tax Breaks for Winston Project

Mill Creek gets 20-year tax break on apartment and senior complex development.

The Nassau County Industrial Development Agency has approved 20-years worth of tax breaks for the along Old Country Road in Mineola.

The developer, Mill Creek Residential Trust, would receive the breaks on the 275-rental unit building set to be constructed at the corner of Old Country Road and Willis Avenue, while a separate would be built on Front Street off Roslyn Road. The entire cost of the project is said to be about $95 million.

“The Winston project is going to bring much needed rentals to young professionals in the county, create jobs, generate economic activity throughout Mineola, the central Nassau business district and this project truly represents the future of smart, transit-oriented housing on the island,” IDA executive director Joseph Kearney said during the IDA’s at the . “There is really a renewed push for transit-oriented housing, particularly along the railroad.”

The land is currently occupied by several two-story office buildings which are vacant and have often been used as campaign headquarters for various politicians, most notably Tom Suozzi and Kathlleen Rice.

“This is something that this area needs,” Kearney said. “It will be, simply put, essential for the rebirth of this area with the new (work) coming out of , it will be a real boost to obviously the local economy, the economy of Nassau, and hopefully will be a benchmark going forward with further development for housing in the county.”

The Nassau IDA will often assist a developer in undertaking a project, being able to enter into agreements for PILOTs, including sales, real estate and mortgage taxes. The original 2007 project projected annual tax revenues of $317,000. The conversion to rentals would have brought in $86,850 the first year PILOT versus the current taxes of $57,583. In approaching the IDA, the developer has worked out a first-year tax total of $603,750 for all taxes, with the projected amount for the village being $69,677.89. If the building were fully built and occupied today, the total taxes would be about $300,000. There is a 20 year schedule of PILOT payments, going from $68,821.38 and rising to $120,328 in the final year. The actual amount being offered is $68,621.38. The tax revenue numbers are in excess of what is currently being taken in and the PILOT agreement comes with annual increases of 3 percent.

“We would not be able to do this deal without the help of the IDA,” Maria Rigopoulous, managing director of Mill Creek Residential Trust said after some prompting from Kearney.

Reportedly the IDA has had “extensive discussions” with the Village of Mineola regarding the PILOT “and ,” Kearney said. “The Village of Mineola is absolutely ecstatic about this project and is fully supportive and that has been engaged in this process the whole while.”

The Winston complex involves the acquisition of the vacant buildings on the north side of Old Country Road where a 6-story building would be constructed, five of which are residential over one-story of parking on and below-grade. The units would be a mixture of market-rate studio, one and two-bedroom apartments while the Churchilll would be senior affordable living units.

“It’s good planning and smart-growth because it’s an area served by mass-transportation and has the existing infrastructure,” Rigopoulous said. “There’s a huge demand for this type of housing; people want to live in downtowns, more and more people are renting by choice, not necessarily necessity.”

The prices for the rentals would range from $1,750 for a 550-650 sq. ft. studio to $3,000 for an 1,150 sq. ft. two-bedroom unit. The two-bedroom spaces were designed with bedrooms on opposite ends of the unit with the living room as a buffer “so it allows these young adults to have a roommate,” Rigopoulous said, “and then they can split the rent, or it’s a guest bedroom, or it’s an office.”

Rigopoulous said the fastest-growing households were singles, young professionals and empty-nesters as “there is a demographic trend – households are getting smaller,” noting that household size was 4.75 in 1990 and today is 2.5.

“There is a real need too because the hospital is growing in leaps and bounds,” Kearney added, referring to Winthrop University Hospital, which will be coming before the IDA for their . “The hospital has a real need for housing for its professional staff personnel.”

Mill Creek anticipates the Winston project being a LEED certified development - project it at gold status – because of its location near downtown and , but was “not sure” about the Churchill, as Rigopoulous did not think that it would qualify for LEED status.

Mill Creek did obtain all of their special use permitting, which also includes an “off-site” area for parking during construction, which would be deeded to the village for use as a 40-space municipal lot. The company would also provide 2,300 linear sq. ft. of land and streetscaping which will be done on Third Avenue, Main Street, Old Country Road, Willis Avenue “and all the way up until the train tracks.” The perimeter of the property will also include new sidewalks and lightposts.

The 4-story Churchill, which would be a mix of brick and siding, is comprised of one and two-bedroom units for those age 55-plus and meet the financial requirements of no more than 80-percent of median annual income.

The project is expected to create about 340 full-time construction jobs over the 2-year period, 58 contract, service and repair jobs once finished and 6 full-time on-site jobs, who manage and maintain the property.

When asked about signing a project labor agreement to pay the prevailing wage rate, Rigopoulous said that “we wouldn’t be able to do this deal with a PLA” and that work would be open to both qualified union and non-union contractors, though the builders would use locally-bought material “when it can” and make “a good-faith effort” in employing Nassau workers and firms.

She said that Mill Creek had “a hard time always just saying Nassau because land is cheaper in Suffolk so a lot of contractors are able to park their vehicles and have space out east but we certainly have used current construction jobs initiatives to try to find a lot of qualified contractors. Because Long Island hasn’t delivered a lot of this product, there is not a huge sub-base sitting and waiting for this product.”

Kearney indicated that he had spoken prior to developer, IDA assistant secretary Chris Fusco and unions to discuss “how we can work out and gauge the unions with this project.”

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