The sale of vacant school property in Mineola to a luxury apartment developer would soften the Corpus Christi Church’s debt should the Mineola Village Board approve a plan to build a 197-unit apartment building on Searing Avenue. The church currently owes upwards of $400,000 to the Diocese of Rockville Centre.
“We have a smaller congregation now,” church Monsignor Robert Batule said at a packed public hearing last Wednesday, Nov. 4. “It’s much more difficult to maintain our services to provide upkeep and maintenance of our buildings.”
Mill Creek Residential Trust plans to construct two, four-story apartment buildings on the north and south side of Searing Avenue after demolishing part of the old Corpus Christi School and one residential home if given the go-ahead. The north building would house 96 units including a rooftop lounge, a courtyard and club room.
The south structure would stand the same as the north building, but decline to three stories toward the Mineola Athletic Association ball fields. It would have an outdoor pool, fitness center and similar amenities to the north dwellings, according to John Farrell, MCRT’s legal counsel of Sahn Ward Coschignano.
“We have worked cooperatively with Mill Creek since the time they made the offer,” Batule said. “We are a parish that would like to continue to offer things to this community.”
Bill Garry, a legal counsel rep for Corpus Christi, said in October the parish agreed to sell the property to Mill Creek if the developer’s plan is approved by the village board. Garry stated the sale “will allow the parish to continue pastoral services, to ensure that there are sufficient funds going forward.”
The school, once a thriving institution that opened in 1922, shuttered in 2010 due to enrollment decline. The building has since been used for religious education. Corpus Christi would retain the gymnasium should the plan be approved after the sale for parish meetings and education, among other uses.
“I made a judgment months ago that part of the school building, we would retain,” Batule said. “A lot of the people here went to school there. I did want to preserve something that people could look at and remember.”
The first proposed building consists of 24 studio dwellings, 34-and 38 one-and two bedroom apartments, respectively. The southern property plans to carry eight studio apartments and 47-and 46 one-and two bedroom dwellings. Each building would have two-level parking garages below the first floor with 306 parking spaces between the two. Architects estimate an 18-month construction time if approved. Mill Creek reps suggested a spring 2016 construction start.
“The intent was to have two buildings on Searing Avenue that are designed to really match each other,” architect Louis Giacalone of Ehasz Giacalone Architects said.
Giacalone said the orientation of the south building with unit windows facing the park intimates the complex with the community.
“Rather than put the corridor on the outside of the [south] building on the ball field side, we decided to turn it and leave the corridor on the inside and leave the units facing the ball field,” Giacalone said. “It gives the ball field a view of the building to make it a pleasing elevation. It allows us to create a corridor that looks out onto the pool and courtyard as well.”
Traffic issues, parking and apartment over-saturation were main sticking points to the project’s detractors, while proponents of the plan feel would be a boon to the business community and keep Corpus Christi from falling deeper into debt and possibly closing.
“I’m on the board of directors at the building that’s going to be right behind the one they’re going to build,” Ed Gawrecki of Clinton Road said. “You’re not going to have enough parking even though you’ve done studies. Residents at [Modera Mineola] are buying village permits and parking in municipal lots by the Long Island Rail Road.”
At MCRT’s recent development, the 275-unit Modera Mineola on Old Country Road, residents pay a fee to park in its garages, according to Mill Creek Vice President Jamie Stover. The village board recently announced it would be conducting its own parking and traffic flow studies to asses vehicle turnover and congestion in Mineola.
“A lot of folks in our buildings don’t have cars,” Stover said. “I do not believe these residents are pulling permits and parking in the lots by the rail road. I’d love to see the parking study the village is undertaking to pull addresses who have parking passes.”
Patrick Lenihan of Hauppauge-based engineering firm VHB, studied five traffic signal intersections between Jericho Turnpike, south to Old Country Road on Willis Avenue. He also factored in traffic estimations from developing or proposed residential developments in the area, namely the recently approved Village Green apartment complex and the near-complete One Third Avenue project, both from Lalezarian Developers.
“We found some congestion at the Old Country Road end and Jericho Turnpike end,” he said. “We looked at a number of developments that have been proposed for the area or under construction. We added the traffic projections from those complexes to come up with [figures].”
Lenihan said there were minor increases in delays, but nothing he “deemed significant.”
“People need places to eat and shop,” resident Gus Lodato said. “I can see it’s difficult to try to bring businesses into that [area]. Without people, where are we going to get the investment? I don’t want to see [the church] suffer.”
Residents feel the problem is the 2nd Street/Willis Avenue intersection, near the Long Island Rail Road crossing. Traffic backup is apparent during morning and afternoon commutes.
“The problem is traffic,” Madeline Maffetore said. “Unless you address the problem, traffic is going to be exacerbated.”
Another hearing is set for Wednesday, Jan. 13 at 6:30 p.m.
“There seems to be support from the community and we’ll address any issues or concerns people have that were brought up [at the hearing],” Stover said.