Building blocks cleared in Garden City

By: LIBN Staff on May 26, 2006

GARDEN CITY – Eight years after he first pitched a multi-story office building – the area’s first new speculative construction in years – adjacent to bustling Roosevelt Field mall, developer Vince Polimeni has been given the green light.

“After nightmares of going back and back and forth and endless meetings and presentations and on and on, the town of Hempstead decided to approve it,” Polimeni said.

Construction should start next spring on up to 150,000 square feet of office space for a five-story building that will have three levels of underground parking. There already is a 200,000-square-foot building owned by Polimeni on the four-acre site, known as 600 Old Country Road.

After gathering dust for so long, the new building’s design is being tweaked. Polimeni promised no colonial architecture or that shiny glass circa 1980s.

Ted Sasso, a broker and president of Renaissance Realty Services LLC, said the new building will be in a prime location.

“It’s really the center of where there’s been more commercial real-estate activity than any other place on Long Island,” Sasso said.

That’s why Polimeni purchased the property about two decades ago from European American Bank, which relocated it headquarters to Uniondale. He originally envisioned a 175,000-square-foot building, but local leaders deemed that too dense. (The town said Polimeni withdrew his plans at one point, though it couldn’t recall exactly when. Polimeni disagrees, saying he never pulled the plans.) Four years ago, the town voted the smaller project down because Polimeni needed a zoning variance, he said.

The Board of Zoning Appeals granted that variance for the 600 Old Country Road project in March. The next step is site plan approval, said town spokesman Mike Deery.

The Central Nassau submarket’s premium office space is only 7.8 percent vacant – the Island’s lowest rate, compared with 9.5 percent in Nassau County and on Long Island, according to first-quarter statistics from CB Richard Ellis. Ten percent is considered an ideal market.

Several sources said Garden City’s Old Country Road corridor hasn’t seen a new office building in a decade or more.

The surrounding community, however, is undergoing a redevelopment boom.

In downtown Garden City, an area being reborn as a financial center, Albanese Organization just finished rehabbing 1001 Franklin Ave. Dubbed the region’s first environmentally-friendly office space, the 110,000-square-foot building officially opened three months ago. It has 25,000 square feet available. And in Westbury, 865 Merrick Ave., the former Darby Medical Supply Co. building, has gone under a rebranding campaign of its own. The 115,000-square-foot building is now known as Park Atrium. It’s not set to open for about six weeks, but about a third of the space is spoken for, said Michael Grey, president of Piermont Properties Inc., the company spearheading the remodel.

The Island’s new projects – riskier because they’re built without signed tenants – are being snapped up before they hit the market.

For instance, the bulk of Reckson Associates Realty Corp’s 300,000-square-foot 68 S. Service Road in Melville was taken by Citibank. And The We’re Group’s 50 Jericho Quadrangle is attracting attention, while developer Ted Weiss reports strong interest in the Melville Corporate Center III. That 118,000-square-foot building is set to open in October.

“There’s a critical shortage of buildings as far as I’m concerned,” said CBRE’s Martin Lomazow. “The approved sites are few and far between.”