By Kimberly Brown
A Town of Oyster Bay meeting to discuss a plan to turn an abandoned 250,000 square foot Sears property in Hicksville into a multi-use development set for March 10, was rescheduled indefinitely due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic. If the plan is approved, the developers will begin construction in the Spring of 2021.
Part of the community believes their concerns on the project are not being taken into consideration by the town, despite developers believing the plan will be beneficial to Hicksville.
“The town officials don’t listen to the community,” Lorraine Quigley, a Hicksville resident, said, “They never have.”
In July of 2018, Quigley started a Facebook page called, Save Our Hicksville [SOH], as a result of, what she and many others felt, was town neglect. The members of the SOH felt the abandoned buildings, vandalism, and garbage ridden bike trails were unacceptable.
Since then, SOH has accomplished three cleanups in the area, disposing of garbage and mowing overgrown weeds along sidewalks and bike trails. “There is nothing here in Hicksville to attract all these apartments,” Quigley said, “It’s disgusting.”
A real estate investment trust [REIT], Seritage, specializing in revamping Sears Holdings properties, originally planned to include a four-story apartment complex with 596 residential units.
After much negotiation with Hicksville residents and the Oyster Bay Planning Department, the buildings were reduced to three stories with 425 residential units.
Turning an underutilized vacant site, such as the Sears site, into a trans-oriented development would help to spur along with the development of the downtown. There are paralleled plans to redevelop that current central business district, said James McCaffrey, the Town of Oyster Bay’s Deputy Commissioner of Economic Development.
“We think with a combination of rezoning the downtown with the Seritage property will reinvigorate Hicksville by bringing in additional residents and some new shops,” McCaffery said.
The shops will be open to the public and will include a grocery store, upscale iPic movie theater, fitness center, and restaurants, among other boutique style retail shops. These will be strategically placed so the apartment residents are able to walk around without having to leave the complex.
Rather than competing directly with the businesses across the street, the new shops are intended to provide a more upscale experience, said McCaffery.
The introduction of the new shops to the area may be damaging to Hicksville’s economy, driving out small businesses, residents like Kirk Larsen said.
“There’s a lot of talk about adding theaters shops and restaurants along with housing but if these new businesses draw people away from the rest of Hicksville it simply hurts the existing economy,” Larsen said.
Residents of the community believe the site should be used for purposes other than retail and housing.
“Personally I think the best use for the property would be to build another campus for Nassau Community College. If they are to improve on that site, they really should make the downtown area better with more attractions as it’s the busiest LIRR stop,” Tom Fogarty, a Hicksville resident said.