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Renaissance Downtowns

An aerial map overview of Huntington Station revitalization projects shows the state-owned NY Avenue property highlighted in yellow. Image from Source the Station

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Huntington Town officials are looking to state representatives in Albany to push for the transfer of ownership of a state property on New York Avenue to the town by June 20.

Councilwoman Joan Cergol (D) introduced a late resolution at the June 5 town board meeting to send a home rule message urging New York state legislators to approve the transferring of ownership of about 4 acres of land in Huntington Station to the town in order for revitalization efforts to move forward.

“The Town of Huntington, in partnership with Renaissance Downtowns at Huntington Station LLC and the entire Huntington Station community, is engaged in a multi-year community planning and revitalization process to help realize the community’s aspiration for a more walkable, vibrant and transit-friendly environment,” Cergol’s resolution reads.

“As you may know, from day one when I started with the town I was assigned to Huntington Station and I’ve been chipping away at it ever since.”
– Joan Cergol

The land sought is a narrow strip of property adjacent to the western side of New York Avenue/Route 110, bordered to the north by Church Street running along the roadway south to the Long Island Rail Road right of way. It is currently owned by New York State Department of Transportation.

Ryan Porter, president and co-CEO of Renaissance Downtowns, said obtaining ownership of the land is critical for moving forward in the planning and construction of the artist lofts and hotel envisioned as part of the Huntington Station revitalization master plans. In February 2014, the town board approved a special use permit for the hotel along New York Avenue under a C-6 overlay zoning. Since then, the plans have not advanced any further.

Town board members approved the home rule message by a 3-2 vote urging the passage of the land transfer bills that have been sponsored by state Sen. Carl Marcellino (R-Syosset) and state Assemblyman Steve Stern (R-Dix Hills) before the end of state legislature’s session.

“As you may know, from day one when I started with the town I was assigned to Huntington Station and I’ve been chipping away at it ever since,” Cergol said, noting she also recently sponsored a resolution that allowed the area to be federally designated an Opportunity Zone which provides tax incentives to business owners. “To be in the position I am now to advance progress is very rewarding and to see things happening makes me feel like a rock star.”

Councilmen Gene Cook (R) and Ed Smythe (R) voted against seeking a transfer of the New York Avenue property. Cook said he was originally in favor of the resolution but admitted to having issues with some of the actions taken by Renaissance Downtowns in recent months, including requesting permission to construct two-bedroom apartments in the Gateway Plaza after initial plans were already approved and seeking approval of $2.6 million in tax breaks from Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency on the project.

“It was a good way to set [Renaissance Downtowns] up and say we’re all playing good or you aren’t playing.”
– Gene Cook

“I wasn’t happy with what happened with Renaissance the past couple of weeks, the nonsense, the changes, going for IDA money,” the councilman said. “It was a good way to set them up and say we’re all playing good or you aren’t playing.”

Porter said he hasn’t had the opportunity to speak personally with Cook since the developer’s request to add two-bedroom units to Gateway Plaza was withdrawn in mid-May.

“We made an adjustment to alleviate the concerns of the community,” Porter said. “But the truth of the matter is that there was a good portion of the population that was disappointed we removed the two-bedrooms units.”

Renaissance Downtowns is hopeful it will receive the necessary permits to begin demolition of the existing buildings located at 1000 to 1026 New York Avenue this summer to make way for construction of Gateway Plaza, according to Porter. The proposed plans for the plaza call for the construction of a mixed-used building consisting of 16,000-square-feet of retail space and a total of 66 apartments. The existing Brother’s Barber Shop will remain in place.

The master developer said there is a June 14 meeting scheduled to hammer out more details and set a more definitive schedule for demolition and construction.

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

The master developer behind Huntington Station’s revitalization plans wishes it was more transparent with residents outraged by proposed changes it was seeking to Gateway Plaza.

Renaissance Downtowns and developer G2G Development submitted a request April 24 seeking to change the composition of apartments that will make up the Gateway Plaza building to be constructed on the corner of Olive Street and New York Avenue. It sought to construct 11 two-bedroom apartments — not included in the original plans, which called for a mix of one-bedroom and studio units — by decreasing the number of studios.

Huntington Station resident Matt Harris raised his objections at the May 1 Huntington Town board meeting, highlighting the requested changes to town officials.

“The people of Huntington Station have been lied to for 48 years,” Harris said. “Developer after developer after developer has lied to us and now Renaissance is doing it.”

Councilman Gene Cook (R) immediately backed Harris’ opinion, saying he approved the project to construct one-bedroom and studio apartments. He called for the town attorney’s office to launch an investigation into the developer’s request.

“We have been keenly aware of the concerns raised by community members over the last couple of weeks about the Gateway Project,” said Ryan Porter, CEO and president of Renaissance Downtowns in a May 12 statement on a website for the project, Source the Station. “While we don’t necessarily agree with the assumptions being made regarding two-bedroom units of this size and nature we clearly hear the community concerns. We are regretful that our transparency with the community over the last [six] years did not come through in this instance.”

The proposed changes were received by the town’s Department of Planning and Environment after the board approved transferring of the town-owned parcel at 1000 New York Avenue to the developer with a 4-1 vote at its April 10 meeting, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo. Councilman Ed Smyth (R) had been the sole objector to the land transfer calling it a “betrayal of public trust.”

The 1000 New York Avenue property was one of the four parcels needed to move forward with the construction of Gateway Plaza. The approved site plan for 1000 to 1026 New York Avenue calls for the construction of a mixed-used building consisting of 16,000-square-feet of retail space and a total of 66 apartments. The existing Brother’s Barber Shop will remain in place.

Renaissance Downtowns celebrated the grand opening of its Northridge apartments with a May 7 ribbon cutting and ceremony. The building, located at the intersection of Northridge Street and New York Avenue, is one of the first concrete steps in the town’s Huntington Station revitalization project. Construction of the mixed-use building began in January 2017 by Huntington-based Blue & Gold Holdings contractors. It consists of 6,500-square-feet of retail space on the ground level, with a total of 16 one-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors.

Read Porter’s entire May 12 statement regarding the changes to Gateway Plaza here.

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

A proposed change of plans for a $22 million Huntington Station revitalization project is being met with resistance by community residents.

Huntington Station revitalization master developer Renaissance Downtowns and developer G2G Development submitted a request April 24 seeking to change the composition of apartments that will make up the Gateway Plaza building to be constructed on the corner of Olive Street and New York Avenue.

The original plans for the 61,000-square-foot building called for a mix of 33 one-bedroom apartments and 33 studio apartments in a mixed-used building over restaurant, retail and office space.

A graph showing the redistribution of apartments proposed for Gateway Plaza. Graphic by TBR News Media

Now, the developer seeks to create 11 two-bedroom apartments, increase it to 45 one-bedroom units and construct only 10 studios.

“The pre-approved square footage was redistributed into a new mix based on voiced community requests for two bedrooms, market research and feedback to Northridge realtors on what local residents are searching for,” reads a statement on Source the Station, Renaissance Downtown’s online portal on the revitalization projects for Huntington Station residents.

Renaissance Downtowns and Huntington Town officials celebrated the grand opening of Northridge apartments, the first concrete project of Huntington Station revitalization, earlier this week. The mixed-use building has 16 one-bedroom apartments for rent on the second and third floors.

“When we started leasing [Northridge], the agent got a lot of inquiries from people looking for two-bedroom apartments,” said Ryan Porter, Co-CEO and president of Renaissance Downtowns.

Deborah D’Ambrosio, a Signature Premier Properties agent who is leasing Northridge’s apartments, said Monday at Northridge’s grand opening she had not personally gotten requests for any two-bedroom units, but that her company had marketed the property for one-bedroom only.

Huntington Station resident Matt Harris said he objected to the request to construct two-bedroom units, pointing out that the change is anticipated to bring seven school-aged children into the school district.

A pie chart showing the proposed redistribution of commercial space for Gateway Plaza. Graphic by TBR News Media

“The people of Huntington Station have been lied to for 48 years,” Harris said. “Developer after developer after developer has lied to us and now Renaissance is doing it.”

Porter admitted as public awareness of the requested apartment development has risen, he’s heard out several concerns raised by other community members.

The proposed changes were only received by the town’s Department of Planning and Environment after the board approved transferring of the town-owned parcel at 1000 New York Avenue to the developer 4-1 at its April 10 meeting, according to town spokeswoman Lauren Lembo. Councilman Ed Smyth (R) had been the sole objector to the land transfer calling it a “betrayal of public trust.”

“I voted into [Gateway Plaza] for the studio apartments,” said Councilman Eugene Cook (R). “I’m asking the town attorney to look into this and see what’s happening. That to me, is entirely uncalled for.”

Supervisor Chad Lupinacci (R) said the town attorney’s office is currently reviewing the developer’s request and market demand is one factor that can be taken into consideration. The town attorney may consult a real estate expert if it is deemed necessary, according to Lupinacci.

Renaissance Downtowns expects to close on the land sale of 1000-1026 New York Ave. properties needed to construct Gateway Plaza this month, according to Porter, with a hope of starting demolition of the existing structures this summer.

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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