C & B Realty, which owns the Northern Boulevard property occupied by Barnes & Noble, is bracing for the bookstore’s possible departure when its lease runs out at the end of the year.
Last August, the realtor said it was abandoning plans to develop the property for alternate tenants.
But those efforts appeared back on track at the North Hills Board of Trustees meeting last Wednesday, when C & B sought permission to expand its parking lot for prospective medical or retail tenants.
Edward Glackin, chief operating officer at Colin Development LLC, a subsidiary of C & B Realty, said the company is “still in talks with Barnes and Noble” to extend their lease but pointed to Barnes & Noble’s recent financial woes as a likely impediment.
“Look at Amazon and Kindle and people reading on their phones,” he said. “It’s a changed business.”
“The bottom line is [Barnes & Noble] doesn’t know what it’s going to do,” he added. “When you have a declining business, it’s hard to plan.”
He called C & B Realty’s development efforts a “plan B.”
In April, developers began seeking approval from the town and Nassau County planning boards to convert the space into medical offices, and the project was approved as long as the site plan met two conditions, including the need for a valet service as a parking solution, and an approval on designs from North Hills officials since the property overlaps the village, a town spokeswoman said.
The effort to gain approval from North Hills began on Wednesday as C & B Realty sought release from a village covenant that restricts the expansion of the property’s parking lot.
If the covenant is lifted, C & B Realty will add as many as 20 parking spaces to the lot behind the building at 1542 Northern Blvd, said Kathleen Deegan Dickson, partner at the law firm Forchelli, Curto, Deegan, Schwartz, Mineo & Terrrana, LLP, which is representing the realtor.
The covenant was put in place in 1966 because the building is located in an area zoned residential, North Hills Mayor Marvin Natiss said.
“Our board is concerned with adjoining residential properties,” he added.
C & B realty purchased the property in 1972 and Barnes & Noble became a tenant in 1996, Deegan said.
The parking lot expansion plan calls for extending the lot 40 feet back from Northern Boulevard and installing a retaining wall as many as 20 feet high at the new edge of the property.
She also cited the screening provided by trees that run along the back of the property.
Robert Soviero, who lives directly behind the property, at 3 Shelter Rock Road, voiced concerns about noise and screening.
He said the retaining wall will be 20 feet tall but will only rise approximately two feet above the gradient between the property and his home, an observation which Deegan confirmed.
Soviero said a dumpster currently on the property results in noise that can be heard at his home as many as 350 feet away.
“At 5 a.m. garbage men are picking up [trash] and there’s a sound issue,” he said. “Something has to be done about the sound.”
Natiss said he did not want to get rid of the covenant, but would consider modifying it to accommodate both the parking lot expansion and Soviero’s concerns.
“When modifying the covenant, we could put in provisions that there not to be anything there other than parking,” Village Attorney Thomas Levin said. “And we could put in a provision that there be no dumpster.”
Natiss proposed to reserve a decision until C & B Realty provides the exact dimensions of its expansion. The board approved the proposal unanimously.
If the Barnes & Noble stays open, it will remain one of the few general bookstores left on the North Shore.
North Hempstead has only three stores for general readers including the Manhasset location, the Dolphin in Port Washington, and a Barnes & Noble in North New Hyde Park.
“Our client is just looking to make the property more attractive,” Deegan said. “A lot of brick and mortar stores are not in expansion mode.”