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Ronkonkoma HUB Sparks Discussion

After town hall meeting, Transit village steps into next phase.

Hundreds gathered at the Ronkonkoma Fire Department's community building Wednesday evening for a presentation on the proposed Ronkonkoma Transit Village project.

Multiple politicians and planners dispelled their thoughts on the benefit of the project, which would revitalize the Ronkonkoma train station area into a mixed-use facility, packed with downtown housing, shopping centers, office buildings and a new destination for Long Islanders to gravitate towards.

"The potential here is enormous," said Suffolk County Exec. Steve Levy. "People will want to come here. I think it's going to beautify the area. I think it's going to increase property value."

A study done in March 2009 by VHB, a planning and engineering firm based in Hauppauge, said the area, which encompasses 181 acres, could sustain 615 housing units, but the actual level added will be the result, "of the achievement of a balance between market demand and the capacity of local services (e.g. schools, sewer, etc.) to support these units (taking into account the tax benefits and costs associated with such development).

At the town hall meeting Wednesday, Ray DiBiase, an engineer and the Executive Vice President of L.K. McLean Associates, said there would be 60,000 square feet of retail space, 200 seats in accompanying restaurants, 50,000 square feet for offices, a 30,000 square foot health facility and five acres for sewage treatment.

"It's mixed use, with a high focus on pedestrian amenities," said Ken Schwartz, the corporate director of planning for VHB. "We're creating a sense of place, an environment that's memorable, that you remember being at, that you can describe to people after you've been there."

This marks the third phase of the process, the first two being to examine existing conditions and creating a visioning process for the community. Now, the key parties will draft zoning plans and undergo a environmental review process.

Levy likened the process to what Patchogue has gone through in recent years. It's downtown is the epitome of revitalization.

"In this community, you have an asset that other communities are dying for and that's an active train station," said Town of Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko, who referred to the Town's fight against blight with the aide of a short film of the train station's down fall and possible uprising at the meeting. "There is not an opportunity better than Ronkonkoma. This is the best transit oriented development location on the entire East Coast."

Click here to read a story about VHB's initial study from March 2009.

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