By Danny Schrafel
A three-part development proposal for a hotel, office building, apartments and mixed-use construction, presented by Huntington Station master developer Renaissance Downtowns, was met with support – and some concerns – during a public hearing at Town Hall Tuesday.
Those proposals, packaged together as the Huntington Station Gateway Neighborhood Plan for the purposes of an environmental review, call for the construction of a hotel and office building near the Huntington LIRR station, artist’s lofts along Route 110, and mixed-use development near Gateway Plaza, located at 1000 New York Ave. near Olive Street.
Should the three projects come to fruition, Ryan Porter, vice president of planning and development at Renaissance Downtowns, said they stand to generate $1.5 million in new tax revenue, with $875,000 earmarked for the Huntington School District. They are also expected to generate 325 construction jobs and about 300 permanent jobs upon completion, resulting in tens of millions of dollars of economic activity, he said.
Thanks to a community benefits agreement adopted in January, 25 percent of construction and contracting jobs will go to Town of Huntington residents, and 25 percent of the new hires for the permanent, non-construction jobs will go to locals. In each case, Huntington Station residents will receive top preference, with a general preference going to Town of Huntington residents.
An anticipated $250,000 in fees will be dedicated to funding community centers, crime prevention, education, emergency services and youth programs.
Based on public feedback Tuesday, Renaissance seems to be on the right track, but some concerns remained. Feedback on the overall revitalization plan was “crowd-sourced” through the developer’s Source the Station website and in-person meetings with residents. That data was used to create the development strategy ratified by the town board last year.
“I am mostly in favor of everything they want to do,” said Huntington Station resident Matt Harris. “This [overall revitalization plan] at least has a considerable amount of community input.”
Along the New York Avenue corridor, LIRR commuter parking lots between the train station and Church Street owned by the New York State Department of Transportation are being eyed for 49 artist’s lofts. The development would be near a 140-room boutique hotel and an approximately 100,000 square-foot office building in a municipal parking lot near the Long Island Rail Road station.
An additional 16,000 square-foot commercial building is planned for a parcel at the corner of Northridge Street and Route 110, and 68 apartments, split between studios and one-bedroom units, are proposed to be built over 16,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space on the ground floor.
Harris called for the mixed-use building at Gateway Plaza to be “fast-tracked” in order to eliminate what he argued are blighted conditions and illegal uses in the area.
“It’s a scar on the landscape in front of some very nice sculptures,” he said.
Other speakers on Tuesday suggested a more immediate focus on completing the conversion of the East Fifth Street armory into the James D. Conte Community Center and creating a fund that developers would have to pay into when their project taps into the sewer system, to subsidize future sewer expansion costs. They also raised concerns about parking and future tax abatements that may be issued to stimulate the project.
Porter said ample parking will remain once construction is complete. Based on 44 time counts conducted during three different months, Porter said of 3,465 currently existing parking spaces, 3,145 are used during the peak hours, mid-day during the week.
Of that excess, the artist’s lofts would consume about 100 spaces, Porter said. While the hotel would take up 180 parking spaces, Porter said reconfiguring parking lots would result in gaining about 180 spaces, making it essentially a wash and leaving with the net peak excess at about 220 spaces.
As to tax abatements, he said it’s too soon to say whether they’ll pursue them. They’ll have a better idea after their environmental reviews are complete and they begin trying to finance the buildings and pursue tenants, he said.
“The important point I always try to make is that one of the benefits of how we develop is that 90 percent of the property we develop has been off the tax rolls for 50 years plus,” Porter said.
While some concerns remained, others, including Supervisor Frank Petrone, were bullish about the prospects of Huntington Station revitalization efforts beginning soon. A vote to approve the Gateway plan is planned for the town board’s June 9 meeting.
“Overall, it’s about time,” Petrone said, with a smile. “We’ve been pushing Renaissance and we’ve been working with them to get this plan going. Now, we’re going to push to get things built.”
Petrone has for two decades worked toward revitalization as Huntington supervisor; community activists have pushed for it for even longer.
“It’s two years – it’s time to put a shovel in the ground,” Huntington Station resident Nancy Berg, who lives in the Highview at Huntington community across the street from the train station along New York Avenue.