Why the Civic Supports the Ronkonkoma Hub Redevelopment
Jan 06, 2014 Filed in: General Announcements
The history of this project is a long one, so it’s easy to forget how we arrived at this point in the process. In 2007 the Town of Brookhaven hired a consultant to explore the various possibilities for revitalization around the railroad station. These findings were presented to the community in a series of public meetings in 2007 and 2008. The Civic helped facilitate those meetings because we were interested in knowing the opinion of the community. Had the attendees made it clear that they preferred no development or limited development, then that would be the goal the Civic would work to achieve. But that’s not what happened. Those meetings revealed that there was overwhelming support for a mixed-use development in the blighted industrial area near the Ronkonkoma train station and that the nearby neighborhoods of single-family homes should preserved and protected. With the goal now set, the Civic continued to work with the Town to make that goal a reality.
In discussions with the planning consultants and the Town it became clear that the two best components for a successful project were the use of a master developer and transit-oriented development.
By using a master developer, instead of waiting for a developer to become interested in the redevelopment project, the Town could competitively chose a developer and enter into an agreement with that developer. Both the Civic and the Chamber of Commerce participated in the selection process. In this way the Town and the community actually had an opportunity to choose the most qualified firm to become the master developer. Also, as part of the arrangement, the master developer is required to work with the Town and the community on the development planning and execution. So, this situation is very different from the typical relationship on a development project. The developer isn’t a firm that just showed up one day and decided to undertake the Hub project; the master developer arrangement was specifically chosen so that the community could always be involved as the project proceeded at a deliberate pace.
The second component of the project was the choice to pursue transit-oriented development. Transit-oriented development, or TOD, is a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly project that is accessible via a variety of transportation options and typically contains stores and services, office space, and housing units targeted to young professionals and seniors. Given that the railroad station is at the heart of the project area and the proximity of the airport, this type of development seemed to be a good fit. There are also many successful examples for this type of development along the east coast, so we have the opportunity to use those precedents in the planning for our project.
So that, briefly, is the history of the project. We believe that the community’s choice to pursue development was a wise one, and here’s why:
➢ We know that Lake Ronkonkoma is a great place to live and work, but it can be even better. Too many of the young professionals who grow up here are forced out because of a lack of housing options, and the rundown area around the train station detracts from the community’s character overall. The Ronkonkoma Hub Project will provide housing opportunities for these young, well-educated professional residents, while creating a new, vibrant commercial district. It will replace a blighted part of town with housing and retail stores and services that spur economic development, create jobs, and lower taxes. The project also creates the opportunity to address traffic issues and create more transportation options, including the prospect of connecting the train station to downtown and the lake.
➢ As a transit-oriented development, the project is intended to be walkable and fully accessible via a variety of public transit options, and that you can easily live, work or shop in the area without using a car.
➢ A vibrant mix of retail shops and services, office space and housing will create jobs for the community, boost the local economy, and generate tax revenue for Lake Ronkonkoma. Projects that revitalize downtowns and generate new revenue help ease the burden on homeowners’ property taxes. The Project is estimated to create 5,140 new full time jobs for the community.
➢ By creating housing options and services for young professional residents who are leaving Long Island in increasing numbers because of a lack of housing they can afford, the project will attract and retain professional 20-35 year olds who are looking to settle down and build their lives here.
➢ According to the Long Island Index, the size of Long Island's young adult population is shrinking faster than the comparable areas in the New York region like northern New Jersey, southwestern Connecticut, and the Hudson Valley. Long Island has the lowest share of young adults in the region, making it difficult for employers to find workers in many sectors of the economy.
➢ Young professionals who are putting down roots have a vested interest in maintaining the quality of life in the area and will become the next generation of homebuyers. This project gives them that opportunity.
➢ The housing will also be targeted to seniors (55+) who have outgrown their homes but are often forced to stay in them because of the lack of other high quality, desirable housing options for seniors on Long Island.
➢ The project is coming to fruition following a lengthy community consultation process. The Town conducted a series of public meetings to gather input from the community at large, the residents near the train station, and the commercial property owners within the redevelopment district. Lake Ronkonkoma residents overwhelmingly agreed that the industrial, rundown area around the train station is unsuitable for the community and needs the kind of improvements that this project offers.
➢ The developer is required to work with the community to develop design standards that ensure that architecture is appropriate, high quality, and in keeping with the character of Lake Ronkonkoma.
➢ The opportunity to connect the revitalized area around the train station, the lake, and the existing downtown commercial center will harken back to Ronkonkoma’s early-twentieth century days as a resort destination and add historic charm.
➢ The blighted, industrial area around the Train Station detracts from the feeling of our community and is deserted and unsafe at night. Revitalizing this area will provide a community gathering space and entertainment and services for all of us, and will generate tax revenue and bolster property values by making the entire area overall a more desirable place to live.
We realize that the project also has many challenges, but overall, the benefits and opportunities for our community are considerable. We hope you will join us in vocally supporting this project.