During a meeting of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Chamber of Commerce on Monday, June 20, the developer of the Jefferson Plaza project presented his vision for its future.
Valentin Staller, vice president of the Hauppauge-based real estate firm Staller Associates, delivered a presentation on the proposed redevelopment of Jefferson Plaza, a property that has been in the family for over half a century.
The history of Jefferson Plaza
Jefferson Plaza shopping center is located on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. The property was first developed in the late 1950s by Erwin and Max Staller, Valentin’s grandfather and great-grandfather, respectively. For a period, the shopping center was a popular and prosperous commercial hub serving the Port Jeff Station and Terryville communities. However, the plaza experienced its share of setbacks as the area underwent a steep decline.
“The whole commercial corridor began to suffer its challenges,” Staller said. “Certain negative elements within the commercial corridor made it really hard to do business.” He added, “Unfortunately, the pandemic only exacerbated things.”
In 2014, the Town of Brookhaven released the Port Jefferson Station Commercial Hub Study, a 135-page document outlining a comprehensive plan to revitalize the area, emphasizing mixed-use commercial and residential zoning with pedestrian walkability. After being approached by, and entering into negotiations with, the Town of Brookhaven, Staller Associates began to seriously consider redeveloping the property.
A redevelopment plan
Staller’s plan includes 49,400 square feet of commercial space, including restaurants and a proposed food hall. The plan accommodates 280 apartments “with a heavy skew toward one-bedrooms.” Staller also said 80% of the apartments will be offered at market rate while the remaining 20% will be designated for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities, “a tremendously underserved community as it relates to housing on Long Island,” he added.
When the developers began planning for the redevelopment of the property, they quickly entered into conversations with Suffolk County about extending sewers into downtown Port Jeff Station.
“We recognized immediately that for any redevelopment to occur, whether it’s this property or any other property in the corridor, a connection to sewers is vital,” Staller said.
The goal of the project, according to Staller, is “to create a dynamic, mixed-use suburban environment.” The developers have already undergone several iterations of their site plan with the Brookhaven Planning Department.
Under the current site plan, the development “is designed to create a much more neighborhood business feel than what exists today and create a more walkable downtown type of environment,” he said. There are also plans to accommodate a fitness and retail center in the plaza.
At the core of the project is a proposed main street that would include retail stores, restaurants and a food hall. The main street would be distinguished by its “exceptional landscaping and distinct pavers” that are both pedestrian-friendly and promote outdoor dining.
“We want to be able to close it off for events,” Staller said. “We want to work with the Terryville Fire Department so that we can have things like farmers markets, Oktoberfest, winter holiday markets and St. Patrick’s Day right on our main street.”
Opposite the main street, there are plans to have what Staller calls “the innovation center.” This venue would serve as a gathering space for engineers, entrepreneurs and programmers.
“We want this to be sort of a mini economic development hub right here in this community,” he said. “We want to bring in Stony Brook [University]’s growing engineering department.”
At the south end of the site, Staller proposes to build apartment complexes that are “designed to be tucked away into the site” to avoid pushing up against and obstructing existing neighborhoods in the area.
Impact on the community
Staller believes the development will stimulate economic activity in the Port Jefferson Station-Terryville community. In order to qualify for a market-rate apartment, Staller said, a prospective tenant must first demonstrate that he or she makes three times the rent before income taxes.
“If you add all of that together, with 80% [of the apartments] at market rate, there’s a lot of disposable income that is concentrated in this community,” he said. This disposable income, he suggests, will inject $7 million per year into the local economy.
Jefferson Plaza is uniquely situated near several major employment hubs on Long Island. Among these are Mather and St. Charles hospitals and Stony Brook University. Staller believes that this redevelopment plan will work due to the demand for housing that these centers generate.
Staller summarized his vision as follows: “We’re talking about a major investment in the built environment with purpose-built outdoor dining, great building materials, high quality architecture and landscaping.”
The developers are still at least two years away before they can begin building. In the meantime, there remains much to be worked out with Brookhaven and Suffolk County.
To read about how the local civic association has embraced the redevelopment project, see the TBR News Media March 31 story, “Reimagining Jefferson Plaza.”