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Renaissance Downtowns

Huntington Town Board approved the transfer of 1000 New York Ave. to Renaissance Downtowns April 10. Photo by Sara-Megan Walsh

A Town of Huntington councilman sharply criticized his fellow board members’ willingness to transfer town-owned land to a private developer for Huntington Station’s revitalization as a “betrayal of public trust.”

Huntington town board voted 4-1 to give 1000 New York Ave. to Renaissance Downtowns, the master developer behind Huntington Station’s revitalization, at its April 10 meeting.

Councilman Ed Smyth (R) was the only one to vote against, blasting his colleagues that giving the property away for free was “unconscionable.”

“Giving away this property without knowing its current fair market valuable is grossly irresponsible,” Smyth said. “Our roads have potholes, marines and docks are in disrepair, the main floor of this building is covered by rubber matting that’s held down by tape. … The town cannot afford to give away this real estate for free.”

The town had acquired the former Tilden Brakes site through use of eminent domain for about $700,000. Since then, the town has spent funds to demolish the former auto care center and clean up the land, Smyth pointed out.

Giving away this property without knowing its current fair market valuable is grossly irresponsible.”

—Ed Smyth

A Town of Huntington councilman sharply criticized his fellow board members’ willingness to transfer town-owned land to a private developer for Huntington Station’s revitalization as a “betrayal of public trust.”

Huntington town board voted 4-1 to give 1000 New York Ave. to Renaissance Downtowns, the master developer behind Huntington Station’s revitalization, at its April 10 meeting.

Councilman Ed Smyth (R) was the only one to vote against, blasting his colleagues that giving the property away for free was “unconscionable.”

“Giving away this property without knowing its current fair market valuable is grossly irresponsible,” Smyth said. “Our roads have potholes, marines and docks are in disrepair, the main floor of this building is covered by rubber matting that’s held down by tape. … The town cannot afford to give away this real estate for free.”

The town had acquired the former Tilden Brakes site through use of eminent domain for about $700,000. Since then, the town has spent funds to demolish the former auto care center and clean up the land, Smyth pointed out.

The land is one of four parcels Renaissance Downtowns needed to acquire to move forward with Gateway Plaza redevelopment. The approved site plan for 1000 to 1026 New York Ave. calls for the construction of a mixed-used building consisting of 16,000-square-feet of retail space and 66 apartments — 33 studios and 33 one-bedroom units. The existing Brother’s Barber Shop will remain in place.

Smyth said the developer has paid more than $3 million to private owners to acquire the three neighboring properties, yet the town will not receive any funds for 1000 New York Ave.

“It’s not a free transfer by any stretch,” said Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D).

Cergol said that the town-owned property was appraised two years ago when the master development agreement for Huntington Station was negotiated. Renaissance Downtowns has invested funds into the revitalization project that was levied against the property’s value or “baked into the transaction.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said he found himself in a difficult position in voting on the contractual agreement negotiated by former Supervisor Frank Petrone (D) to give the land to Renaissance Downtowns under Huntington Station’s master plan. If the transfer was voted down, Lupinacci said he knew the town would be immediately hit with a lawsuit and face tens of thousands in legal fees.

We owe it to Huntington Station, revitalization is important.”

— Chad Lupinacci

“I care too much about the town and taxpayers to waste this type of money,” he said.

The supervisor suggested the funds could be better spent by improving the town’s parks, offering childcare services or keeping the town’s tax rate low. His proclamation that he would support the measure and encouragement to his fellow board members to do the same, was met by a round of applause from residents.

“We owe it to Huntington Station, revitalization is important,” Lupinacci said. “We want to restore it. It’s an excellent area.”

Renaissance Downtowns had initially projected a time line of groundbreaking on the Gateway Plaza in fall of 2017. The developer hopes to be able to begin demolition within 60 to 90 days once proper permits are in order, according to Renaissance Downtowns Community Liaison Andrea Bonilla. A groundbreaking ceremony on construction is projected for this fall.

“This is the next stage in the overall development,” Councilman Mark Cuthbertson (D) said. “I think it’s a good stepping stone.”

The developer has already completed construction of Northridge, a multiuse building consisting of 6,200-square-feet of retail space and 16 one-bedroom apartments further south on New York Avenue.

This artistic rendering depicts what Huntington Station may look like once revitalized. Photo from Renaissance Downtowns

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Efforts to revitalize the southern portion of Huntington Station received a much-needed push forward last week.

Huntington Town Board members voted to approve spending $1.25 million in bond funds received from the Suffolk County Legislature to conduct an extensive sewer study as part of the Huntington Station
revitalization efforts.

The lack of sewers in Huntington Station is one of the areas that is desperately in need of improvement to make revitalization possible, as the land north of the Long Island Rail Road tracks in Huntington Station is served by the sewer district, but the south side is not, which has limited development and economic opportunities.

“It is the hurdle that prevents development from occurring,” said Ryan Porter, the director of planning and development with Renaissance Downtowns. “It prevents this project from being implemented on the south side.”

Renaissance Downtowns is a nationally-renowned development group chosen by the town to be a master developer of Huntington Station’s revitalization in 2012. Porter said due to the lack of sewer access in the south, the town has been forced to pursue a “dual track” when approaching revitalization efforts. Construction of a mix-used  building at the intersection of Northridge Street and New York Avenue was started this past January while there remain no specific plans yet in place for the south side of town, according to Porter.

The sewer study, which will be conducted by Suffolk County under an inter-municipal agreement, will analyze the existing sewer infrastructure, feasibility and design conditions within Huntington
Station to determine the most efficient way to connect the southern part of the town to existing sewer districts.

The southwest sewer district, which currently serves areas in the Town of Babylon and Town of Islip, currently extends only as north on Route 110 as the Walt Whitman Mall.

Porter said if southern portions of Huntington Station could be hooked into either the southwest sewer district or another system, it would greatly increase the future development potential.

“If an existing building is under performing, [the owner] can only tear down what they have and rebuild the same thing,” Porter said. “There’s very little motivation for people to improve their buildings. If
sewers were available, they could increase the building’s uses which is a financial
justification to rebuild your property.”

Suffolk County has already moved to issue the request for bids from engineering firms interested in undertaking the study.

Huntington Station residents interested in sharing their thoughts and ideas about what they would like to improved or built can visit www.sourcethestation.com. The website contains information on sharing ideas find out about upcoming community meetings.

Renaissance Downtowns cleared to move ahead

Ryan Porter, of Renaissance Downtowns, speaks at a Huntington Town Board meeting. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Station’s revitalization took one step forward on Sept. 16, as the Huntington Town Board approved the Huntington Station Gateway Plan at its monthly meeting.

The Huntington Station Gateway Plan is the environmental review encompassing three sites slated for redevelopment by Renaissance Downtowns — the town’s master developer for Huntington Station.

The three sites are all within walking distance of the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station and in close proximity to each other, allowing for a combined review of the potential environmental impacts of the projects, the town said. The projects include a hotel and office building across the street from the train station at the intersection of New York Avenue and Railroad Street; a mixed-use building with apartments and retail businesses behind the town’s Gateway Plaza at New York Avenue and Olive Street; and artists’ residences and display space in part of what is now a parking lot at New York Avenue and Church Street.

“Approval of the Gateway Plan allows Renaissance to take the next steps on each of the proposals, which could include site plan approval,” according to a town statement.

In an email this week, Ryan Porter, vice president of planning and  development at Renaissance said the team is excited about the approval of the plan, which marks the “culmination of nearly a year’s work in collaboration with the town and the community.”

He said the team would continue to work with the town and the county on sewer solution strategies for the non-sewered areas in the revitalization.

“With this approval behind us, we will now accelerate discussions with our development and financing partners as well as multiple tenant prospects,” Porter said. “In addition Renaissance will look to commence site plan approvals and building permits for several of the sites in 2015 with the goal of being in the ground in 2016.”

The projects are also near the proposed Columbia Terrace veterans-preference affordable housing development Huntington Town has planned for the intersection of Railroad Street, Columbia Street and Lowndes Avenue. Town officials said they hope to break ground on that development early next year, according to a statement.

For more information about Renaissance’s plans, visit sourcethestation.com.

A rendering of the Gateway Plaza development on the left, and on the top right, the envisioned artist residences on the corners of New York Avenue and Church Street. Image from Renaissance Downtowns

Plans to revitalize Huntington Station are inching closer to fruition, with the town board holding a public hearing next week to jointly consider the environmental impacts of three potential developments that would inject the community with retail, commercial and residential spaces.

Renaissance Downtowns, a private developer the town appointed and charged with revitalizing Huntington Station, is spearheading the projects situated along New York Avenue. They include a four-story, 140-room hotel with 100,000 square feet of office space; 49 artists’ lofts, which would include residences and gallery space in a three-story building; and 68 residences made up of studios and one-bedroom units to be built above 16,000 square feet of retail space.

Andrea Bonilla, the community liaison for Source the Station, a partner of Renaissance Downtowns that solicits ideas for redevelopment in Huntington Station, said the public hearing will allow the board to consider the impacts of all three projects in one hearing, versus considering one at a time, which would take about six to nine months each, she said in an interview this week.

“The feeling was if you’re in very close proximity, to do a single environmental impact statement to cover the area,” town spokesman A.J. Carter said last week.

It’s a big step forward for Renaissance, and for the area’s revitalization, Ryan Porter, vice president for planning and development at Renaissance Downtowns said this week. “It’s huge,” he said.

The three projects represent what Renaissance has identified as “immediate opportunity sites,” meaning they’ll able to be developed within the current sewer district capacity.

There’s still work to be done before the projects are in the ground. Once the board considers the environmental impacts under the New York State Environmental Quality Review process, it can choose to adopt a finding on whether the projects pose a significant impact. If a favorable finding were adopted, Renaissance would begin financing the projects and gaining site plan approval for each lot, Porter said.

Porter said he hopes Renaissance breaks ground on the hotel project by the end of the year. He also said he has already attracted interest from companies such as Marriott and Hilton.

The public hearing next week is yet another town board milestone on Renaissance’s road to revitalization of Huntington Station. The most recent was the town board’s approval of a community benefits agreement in January that spells out job and economic benefits to the surrounding community if Renaissance develops property in Huntington Station. That agreement was the brainchild of a number of local groups, officials have said.

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