The Mineola Village Board voted 4-1 last week to approve a change in the status of the Churchill, the proposed senior citizen housing companion to the Winston, from a condominium to a rental building.
"Its construction as a condo could not be financed," said village attorney John Spellman, who said that Polimeni had made a "good faith" effort to obtain financing.
The approval follows a similar change the board cleared last December for developer Polimeni International on the 300-unit Winston.
At that time, Polimeni executives were seeking to avoid a delay in the primary project from Garden City officials, who were contending that the proximity of the project to that village's border gave its planning board the right to review the building plans. In the case of the 36-unit Churchill, Polimeni representatives said they were reacting to market conditions - another reason for the change from condos to rental in the Winston - which were presenting a roadblock to securing financing for both projects.
Spellman enumerated conditions for the project - including $3 million Polimeni will pay for amenities in the village to be determined by the village board - leading to a sharp exchange between Trustee Lawrence Werther and Deputy Mayor Paul Pereira over the project.
During a Sept. 14 public hearing, Werther objected to the proposed change in the Churchill, saying that a personal guarantee from Polimeni Chairman Vincent Polimeni should have been enough to secure financing for the project as it had been originally proposed.
"The size of this project is so miniscule compared to the Winston, I don't see why a personal guarantee would not be sufficient," Werther said.
"I'm not willing to play ‘chicken' with the amenities being offered to this village," Pereira responded.
Village of Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss said three out of four senior village residents he had discussed the project with favored the proposed change from condos to rental units.
"I'm voting in favor of this on behalf of the seniors in this village," Strauss said.
Pereira said the board members could not have anticipated the economic "twists and turns" that prompted the requested change from Polimeni when the senior housing component was first proposed three years ago.
Spellman noted other conditions tied to the building projects, including streetscape improvements on Jericho Turnpike, where both buildings will be constructed and improvements to a "benchmark" office building owned by Polimeni at 170 Jericho Turnpike. The changes were intended to make the building's exterior aesthetically consistent with the appearance of the Winston, which will be adjacent to it.
The first step in the project is construction of a three-story garage on 3rd Street to accommodate parking for the new apartment buildings and the office building.
Construction on the garage will begin in the spring, according to Michael Polimeni, Polimeni chief operating officer. He said the garage will take approximately six months to construct.
"We're putting the final tweaks on the 3rd Street garage. So we're just waiting for a green light," Polimeni said.
Polimeni said construction of the Winston and the Churchill will begin more or less simultaneously in the spring of 2013.
"Once you start building two projects like that in such a small space, it becomes a logistical discussion. We'll proceed in the most logical manner," he said.
Polimeni said he received positive responses about the prospective change on the Churchill from members of three senior citizen groups in Mineola, including the local AARP, the Leisure Club, and the Golden Age Club.
"This is not being looked at negatively," he said.
The projects will help to realize the village board's vision for development of the downtown Mineola area as part of the village master plan.