BY MICHELLE GABRIELLE CENTAMORE and JAKE PELLEGRINO
A ribbon-cutting Monday for the Northridge building heralded the start of the next phase of Huntington Station’s revitalization.
The Northridge building, part of the Huntington Station revitalization, was developed by New York New Home Builder Blue & Gold Homes & Renaissance Downtowns and is at 1046 New York Ave, Huntington Station.
“This has been a community that has suffered from disinvestment for far too many years. And I believe that this building and others to follow will be the welcome mat for investors and those who want to join in on the Huntington Station revitalization that we’ve always believed in and will continue to believe in,” Councilwoman Joan Cergol said Monday.
In 2012, the Town of Huntington embarked on a collaboration with Renaissance Downtowns in Plainview to reposition and revitalize Huntington Station with mixed-use, walkable developments. A development strategy was approved by the Town Board on June 4, 2013. Since the urban development plans in the 1960s which led to the destruction of some buildings in the Station but didn’t provide replacements, a large swath of the area has become a commuter parking lot.
The collaboration between the town and Renaissance aims to make the area more attractive and functional. To date, phase one is 95 percent complete and phase two is underway, according to Ryan Porter, Co-CEO and president of Renaissance Downtowns.
“We spent the first year of our process commencing our outsourced community crowdsourced placemaking,” Porter said. This project invites community feedback so that the project and end result will reflect community needs and desires, he said. A group affiliated with Renaissance, Source the Station, was established to act as a liaison with the community. Source the Station hears requests for restaurants and other establishments or for a particular look and feel for the development. In addition to working with the town government, “we work with the community,” Porter said. “Everything we do is very socially, environmentally and economically sound,” he added.
Northridge, which sits on the corner of Northridge Street and New York Avenue, consists of 16 one-bedroom units and approximately 16,000 square feet of retail and commercial space; so far, a delicatessen is slated for part of that space with other retail establishments in the works, Porter said.
“I applaud the mixed-use nature of the building and look forward to this continuing to be part of what makes Huntington Station flourish,” Receiver of Taxes, Jillian Guthman said at the ribbon-cutting.
The second project, Gateway, a three-story mixed use apartment building is slated to commence construction this summer. It will include market-rate apartments: 66 rental units and 11 studios, which will be built above 13,500 square feet of retail space. A two story parking deck with 132 parking spaces will also be constructed.
Some community activists are objecting to the projects, charging “bait and switch” after the developers changed the number of apartments from what was originally proposed and accepted by the Town.
Community activist Matt Harris said, “I have not seen this level of bait and switch since Crazy Eddie was in business,” in a post on Facebook last week.
And Jim McGoldrick, another active resident, said, “I find it very disturbing in regards to the bait and switch tactic. I unfortunately can no longer support this project. Either go back to what was agreed to or it is time to terminate the contract with Renaissance.”
Once Northridge is open and people are living there, the community will feel the impact immediately, Porter said. “And once both Northridge and Gateway are up and running, it will be a significant change for the better that the community will see,” he added. Blue & Gold Homes Developer, Grant Havasy, who was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony, lives and grew up in Huntington and called the Northridge building a moment of pride for his family, “because we have always believed in this revitalization and the ability to build something so beautiful. The renaissance has begun, and it shall continue, and we are happy to set the high watermark.”
While the third and fourth projects have not yet taken off, strategic planning is in the works. Huntington Station will have a 140-room hotel with a 100,000-square-foot office building and parking structure. This development will exist on the southwest corner of New York Avenue and Railroad Street. Rounding out the revitalization will be 49 artist lofts between Railroad Street and Church Street, along New York Avenue.
From a health and wellness standpoint, as well as economic, all of the projects will have a significant impact, Porter said. “Our whole focus is to bring this walkable, mix use development so that we can give folks an opportunity to live that lifestyle of walkability. It is a boost for the area, bringing local jobs, new tax revenues and vibrancy for the people living there, which also increases safety.” He believes convenience will be an added benefit. “Folks that commute to New York City will no longer be required to drive to the train,” he said.
“Huntington is one of the lowest communities for rentals on Long Island,” Porter said. “The buildings will be much nicer, modernized.” The concept of the development “is to provide a vibrancy where folks can live, work, and shop all within close proximity,” he said.
While there’s always some resistance to new ideas and development like ”typical concerns including school, traffic, burdening on resources,” Porter said, he believes the community is on board with the revitalization. Source the Station has over 2,000 members showing their support, he said. “Our project will add much more revenue to the system than municipal needs… it’s not going to attract any significant amount of school children; there will be private pickup for the majority of trash; there will be over two times the current tax revenues from the start on these properties than currently paid,” Porter said.
The entire revitalization of Huntington Station could take up to ten years in total but, “the progress will be well worth the wait,” Porter said. He anticipates upcoming challenges but “if we communicate and continue to express ourselves honestly and transparently, we will get through these challenges over time and we’ll continue to see buildings like this come to fruition,” he said.
photos by Jake Pellegrino