10.17.2013 Newsday | Amityville Route 110 downtown revitalization plans eyed
By Nicholas Spangler
Amityville trustees are calling for a rebirth of the village's downtown, a stretch of the Route 110 corridor that includes two popular restaurants and some of the oldest businesses in the village alongside vacant properties and discount stores.
But they have different ideas about where to start. Mayor James Wandell has formed a downtown revitalization committee composed of residents who are business owners, planners and architects to formulate what he called a "comprehensive, 21st century plan for our downtown."
Meanwhile, trustees Dennis Siry and Kevin Smith are exploring a business improvement district, or BID, for the area where business and property owners would commit to contribute money toward beautification, marketing and capital improvements. Merrick Road could be included in the BID, Siry said.
Trustees and residents have also spoken about plans for Amityville's downtown with Destination LI, a nonprofit associated with developer Donald Monti.
Wandell and trustee Nick LaLota said they were skeptical of any plan that would involve additional taxes, with LaLota calling the BID "dead in the water" in an interview last week.
The moves come as the village seeks to replace revenue lost after the demolition at the Brunswick Hospital property off Broadway, once one of the village's largest taxpayers, reduced the tax bill there to $72,554 from $255,455 for the current fiscal year.
Village officials and business leaders agree that for years, though, vehicle traffic on Route 110, or Broadway, as the busy four-lane state road is called when it passes through Amityville, has not translated to pedestrians spending money.
The area has few national retail tenants, and commercial rents top out at about $30 per square foot, trailing most downtowns in the region, said Jayson Siano, a managing partner for Sabre Real Estate Group, a brokerage company.
Sabre has the listing for a planned development at Frontier Mobile Home Park in North Amityville, which, with 500 apartments and a retail component, could bring more visitors to the village. Restaurants Vittorio's and Vero already draw evening diners downtown.
But without what Chamber of Commerce president Joanne Goodman describes as a "centerpiece" -- Riverhead's waterfront for example -- few crowds stroll and spend money at other times. "You need to have a reason for people to come so they shop," she said.
Wandell, who has not set any deadlines for the revitalization committee to complete its work, said a successful plan would likely include changes to zoning, and making Broadway more pedestrian-friendly.
It's not clear what role a BID or the planning assistance from Destination LI could play in that plan. Business and property owners would have to vote the district into existence, and Goodman said she doubted many would welcome another layer of taxation.
"If you don't have money," trustee Siry said, "it's hard to do anything."