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Goodbye, Heartbreak Hotel

Dingy Courtesy structure to be replaced by exciting new rental complex

Gone is the heartbreak that was the Courtesy Hotel. Its unfriendly stature erased, its shadow now turned to dust. The blight cast on Hempstead Avenue and Westminster Road is all but a distant memory and has been replaced with the rising structure that will be the Alexan@West Hempstead.

The rental complex project has seen a rocky road to fruition. It was supposed to break ground Summer 2009, but the finalization of complete ownership by Mill Creek Residential Trust (MCRT) hit a roadblock in demolition permits. The sale of the property was finalized in February 2010.

The hotel was torn down piece-by-piece last May in front of more than 200 local residents. Developers plan to replace the hotel with a four-story, 2.7 acre, 150-unit rental complex in a first of its kind transit-oriented housing zone on Long Island, since the parcel of land is located steps away from the Long Island Rail Road station.

Hempstead Town officials hope that building the apartment complex will convince the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to reconsider its decision to suspend weekend service to West Hempstead. The station has resembled that of a ghost town since the cut in weekend train times in 2010.

Calls to the MTA were not returned by presstime.

The project was able to move forward because the town created a “Transit Oriented Development” zone in late 2008 that allowed for greater density in the area. The LIRR’s promise to keep vacant its 1-acre site between the hotel and the train station also gave the project the space it needs.

“I’m delighted in the speed that it is being built,” West Hempstead Community Support Association (WHCSA) president Rosalie Norton said. “It’s starting to take shape. We have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to look like. It’s fine. It’s not one solid line of buildings. It’s broken up and shaped nicely.”

The WHCSA has been at the forefront of this initiative in the community since it formed the Committee to Close the Courtesy in 1995, before the Town finally developed its West Hempstead Urban Renewal Plan in 2007. In terms of the floor-plan amenities for individual dwellings, they will include, but are not limited to, full-size washers and dryers, walk-in closets, 9-foot ceilings, wall-to-wall carpeting and individual central heating and air-conditioning, according to MCRT representatives.

“They’re always working when I go by there,” Norton stated. “I think the warm winter helped out considering how fast [the work] has moved along.”

MCRT regional managing director Maria Rigopoulos expects the complex to open this fall. The project is on schedule. It’s unclear when apartments will be shown.

“Since the Courtesy Hotel was demolished, construction had been progressing nicely,” Rigopoulos said. “We are very excited about this development and the prospect of delivering new, upscale and transit-oriented rental housing to the market.”

The complex will feature one, two and three-bedroom floor plans, on-site leasing, management, and maintenance, clubhouse lounges with fireplaces and flat screen HDTVs.

The building’s design will consist of a combination of masonry and siding facades, decorative panels and railings, large windows, balconies and gabled asphalt shingle roofs, MCRT officials revealed. The sidewalks encompassing the area will receive new lighting and landscaping.

“We anticipate a grand opening in the fall,” Rigopoulos stated. “However, due to the tremendous interest we have received so far, in the coming weeks we will begin unveiling “West 130” to the community via our web-site and gathering a wait list.“

The complex will also feature 4,000 square feet of amenity and administrative space. The Alexan will include a cyber café and catering kitchen as well as a fitness center and resort-style swimming pool with a sundeck.

Town councilman Edward Ambrosino was part of the team with Town Supervisor Kate Murray, Councilwoman Dorothy Goosby and Councilman James Darcy in getting this plan off the ground in November 2008. The complex will have controlled-access parking as well as a grilling area for barbecues.

“I want to commend Supervisor Murray, my fellow town board members, the Mill Creek Residential Trust Company and the citizens of West Hempstead on developing this transformative project,” Ambrosino said. “It is exciting to see the framing completed and I eagerly await the beginning of a new era in our town’s history.”

It will feature 24-hour emergency maintenance, decorative fountains and landscaped courtyards.

“I am pleased that Hempstead Town was able to make this innovative development possible by creating the first ‘transit-oriented’ housing zone,” Murray said. “The train-commuter friendly zone allows for greater building density for projects located adjacent to railroad stations. Councilman Ambrosino and I are happy we were able to work with community leaders like Rosalie Norton, neighbors and a progressive developer to improve downtown West Hempstead.”