Sunrise Mall in Massapequa is a prime example of what could be possible – and what could end up being a serious disappointment – as the area’s malls and strip malls consider their future.
The mall’s owner, Urban Edge Properties, has decided not to renew the leases of its remaining tenants, including Macy’s and Dick’s Sporting Goods, paving the way for future redevelopment of the site.
It sounds like an incredible opportunity. Sunrise Mall, already half vacant, occupies 1.2 million square feet of space and spans 77 acres, including more than 6,000 parking spaces. An exciting reimagining for so much land in southeastern Nassau County is needed, but that’s not what the mall owners seem willing to do.
In a press release regarding the decision, Urban Edge Properties’ vice president of marketing, Coleen R. Conklin, says the owners are limiting their view. “Conklin said the company is not considering any proposals to redevelop the site as a residential community,” the statement said.
How come housing is presumably irrelevant for a prime property in a county with little land available?
That, unfortunately, could come down to political reality. Sunrise Mall is in the town of Oyster Bay, which has long been reluctant to allow increased housing density. Since the mall property is zoned for commercial or light industrial development, any plan that includes housing would require a rezoning.
Zoning changes in Oyster Bay are often an uphill battle. Perhaps the most telling comments were the comments of City Supervisor Joseph Saladino when he said the city is “committed to protecting the quality of suburban life in our community.”
Owners of Saladino and Sunrise Mall would be wise not to close themselves to options that could benefit the city and region. Oyster Bay has had development successes that include housing; just look at Country Pointe in Plainview.
It’s not just about Sunrise. Other Long Island mall owners have low occupancy rates and must prepare plans for the next best use of their land. Also in Oyster Bay is the former Sears store in Hicksville, where development plans have stalled. Now there is talk that Seritage, the real estate spinoff of Sears, could sell itself or the Hicksville property. The potential of this land is enormous; this is another opportunity that cannot be lost.
As the shortage of housing of any kind on Long Island reduces our potential, retail owners and local elected officials must consider redevelopment that includes residential construction and avoid settling for more warehouses, truck depots or weak retail businesses.
Long Island lawmakers, including Saladino, recently stressed the importance of local control as they fought a public housing proposal. But even with local oversight, those same leaders need to show that they can be forward-thinking, strike the right balance, and meet the needs of the region.
Start with Sunrise Mall. Find something better. And don’t stop there.
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