Citing an inability to secure financing, developers for the multi-story residential complex known as “The Winston” came before the recently to request changes to the senior affordable housing component.
Under development by Polimeni International, the project takes the form of two buildings: a 285 residential rental building known as “The Winston” and the 36 unit “Churchill” affordable senior housing project, which is now being proposed as a rental complex instead of a condominium building.
“As you’ve been sitting there waiting for me to begin, I’ve been sitting here waiting to begin. This truly is what I need in order to begin,” developer Michael Polimeni said, calling the change “one last tweak.”
In 2008 the village board approved the application for the project as a condominium and the 36-unit senior affordable housing on Front Street. Polimeni after finding that financing for condos was not available, requesting a . The application at that time did not modify the senior building.
“There’s no financing for this type of project,” Polimeni attorney Andrea Tsoukalas said when asked the reason for the change. “And the other reason is that there’s a trend in demand for rental with regard to seniors.”
The five-story, 36-unit building would be geared toward seniors who are aged 55-plus with an income of 80 percent of the median value – what is defined as “affordable.” Incomes are verified through an application process. There would be 28 one-bedroom units and 8 two-bedroom units, with 38 parking spaces. Rents for the apartments would range from $1,430-$1,690. An equivalent one-bedroom would start at $2,000 while a two-bedroom would range from $2,600-$2,700.
In December the development group had raised the issue of the potential difficulty of obtaining financing for the project as a condominium. The original agreement with the village stipulated that construction would have to begin within 2 years of the date of decision contingent on a 75 percent pre-sale of units unless there was a demonstration that financing was not available – a “safeguard” according to Tsoukalas. “The applicant has tried long and hard to get this financing,” she said. The estimated cost of the project is $7.2 million and construction would take approximately one year. The agreement also includes streetscape improvements and a $3 million contribution to the village.
Tsoukalas did state that the developer has no intentions of modifying the building in any other way and that the exterior facade was modified to more closely resemble a residential building.
“We’re talking about the form of ownership, not the use,” village attorney John Spellman said.
Trustee Lawrence Werther asked if Polimeni had considered putting his “personal guarantee” on the project.
“It’s my understanding that in situations like this, especially someone of Mr. Polimeni’s stature, that if his personal guarantee went on it, financing would not be a problem,” Werther said. After consulting with Polimeni, Tsoukalas replied that her client had not offered his personal guarantee, saying it was “not typical” for construction.
Werther also inquired about protecting “my seniors, my residents, my friends, my neighbors here in the village” regarding Mineola residents getting first choice of rental, rent control, etc. suggesting that a portion of the Winston project be dedicated to seniors “and building the condominium complex as contractually and morally and ethically agreed to.”
Maria Rigopoulous, managing director of Mill Creek Residential Trust, said it was against fair housing law to dedicate a portion of the Winston to a group since “once you have an open apartment community that does not have an age restriction, you cannot take part of it and make it age restricted because age is a protected class.”
When questioned if at some future point residents would have the option to purchase the units, changing from rentals to condos, Tsoukalas replied that “that’s not what’s proposed.”
The board closed the meting and reserved decision for a period of three weeks in order for the developer to hold meetings with the various senior groups of the village.
In the interim, asked all seniors in the village “to make your own decision and let us know what those decisions are, if you are in a position to either rent or buy, let us know which one you would prefer.”