Going over the Mineola Boulevard LIRR bridge may never be the same if a proposal to build a four-story research center is approved by the .
The site, located on the northwest corner of Mineola Boulevard and Second Street at 101-109 Mineola Boulevard, currently houses the Winthrop community outreach center, former poison control center and former site of the .
The center, which would be dedicated to researching diabetes, would rise approximately 78 feet in height, with an additional 10.6 ft. of structure for utility circulation towers. Winthrop is planning to break ground on the center sometime in spring 2012.
According to Rachel Scelfo of the Uniondale-based firm of Farrel Fritz, Winthrop is seeking relief of height, parking and architecture codes and a special use permit for food, which is not prepared on site, but catered instead, but which still requires the permit under the village code.
“Winthrop University Hospital has grown significantly from that 19 bed hospital that was built on the site in 1900. We are very proud to be a part of the village and certainly recognize the impact and the obligation Winthrop has to the community that it has for over 100 years called its home community,” Winthrop Vice-President of Development John Broder said at the board’s July 13 meeting. “The research center is being proposed to accommodate the growing research initiatives at Winthrop.”
Due to the , the research initiatives on the hospital campus require additional space. Broder explained that the hospital is in need of additional space due to advances in healthcare and larger machines which take up more room.
“We hope that in the not too distant future that we will become a moving force in diabetes research as we have become in and ,” Broder said. “We look at it as a gateway to Winthrop; bringing the campus of Winthrop University Hospital to Mineola Boulevard and also to have this building become somewhat of a gateway to the Village of Mineola.”
Winthrop is planning to consolidate research facilities such as clinical research labs and research laboratories currently housed at 222 Front Street into the new building. Practices at 120 Mineola Boulevard would also be moving to the new building.
The building has a farther setback from the street than the current community center and “the height of the building is comparable to the other buildings in the area,” Evans Weremeychick of Perkins Eastman architects said, noting that the trick was to “blend” the lower half of the building with the surrounding businesses as well. A pedestrian overhang and landscaping with a water feature will also be used to disguise the parking area behind the building
Kim Gennaro of VHB Engineering noted that the proposed building is in keeping with other structures in the area as there are a total of 18 multistoried buildings that exceed all height requirements in the neighborhood. The reason for the center’s four floors is a regulation governing air flow in research facilities which require 100 percent outside air and six air changes per hour. The greater ceiling height of 14 ft. per floor – 10 ft. in a standard office building – houses ductwork and a heat recovery unit would be placed at the top of the building.
Several concerns regarding traffic in the already congested area were raised, specifically about parking. Harold Lutz, a traffic engineer from VHB Engineering, stated that after conducted traffic counts at 14 intersections and applying “growth rate” formula to determine what traffic would result from the development, he concluded that “it’s really a minor generator of additional traffic volume.” Lutz added that the project “really doesn’t add a significant amount of traffic” and the intersections would operate at “similar” conditions to if there were no construction.
The center is projecting the addition of 50 employees following the construction but already have many of the people on campus today and the proximity of the railroad and would lessen or negate any impact. Winthrop intends to move parking for employees from 222 Front St. to the renovated Fifth Avenue garage using a card coded parking system. Approximately 60 spaces are currently located at the community center building and about 140 at 222 Front St. for patients to utilize. The hospital also has an agreement in place with Sears to use the garage behind their for overflow where jitneys can run on “rare occasions” when large symposiums are held on the Winthrop campus.
The 24-month construction phase would cause the temporary loss of 12 metered parking spaces along Second Street and the sidewalk would have to be covered with a pedestrian walkway around Second Street and Mineola Boulevard for safety reasons. The sidewalks will remain open however. Construction would be staged on the site itself, with crews beginning on the rear of the building and “gradually pull back” to demolish the structure.
Lane closures on Mineola Boulevard would occur when crews connect the sewer and utility lines, which are being buried as a beautification concession at the cost of $1.6 million to the hospital. Power lines along Mineola Boulevard between First and Second Street and along Second Street would be buried as well as all transformers and connections. The hospital is also offering $1 million in funds for amenities and other items which are being negotiated as part of the village’s development incentive bonus for property located within the downtown overlay district.
“It was just something that the hospital felt was inappropriate to the design of the building and certainly wouldn’t accomplish what we hoped to accomplish for the village as well as the hospital,” Broder said. Winthrop would work with the village to schedule closures, which would last no longer than two days.
The property is currently on the village tax roll and will continue to be once construction is finished. Based on preliminary evaluation, property would have at least a 50 percent increase in taxes after the new building is built.
In addition to diabetes, the center would run studies on cardiopulmonary disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, neurological disease and conduct clinical trials on childhood obesity and diabetes. Other activities would include lab and clinical research and monitoring drug interactions. No infectious disease research would be done at the site. Much of the drug testing would be done on mice and rats specifically raised for research. No primates or other animals would be involved. The center’s operating hours would be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays.
The hearing was continued until the August 3 meeting of the village board.