Creation of downtowns for young LI renters urged

A large rent banner is posted on the

A large rent banner is posted on the side of an apartment building. (June 15, 2012) (Credit: Getty Images)

Long Island needs to develop lively, pedestrian-friendly downtowns to retain and attract young professionals, real estate industry leaders said at a forum Wednesday.

The "creative class of worker really wants a vibrant downtown to live in," said Donald Monti, president and chief executive of Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns. "What we're really looking at . . . is a 100-year trend, of a return to our roots, downtown living, neighborhood living, walkability, where people don't need two cars."

Monti, whose firm is redeveloping downtown Hempstead Village, told a crowd of industry professionals at the forum in Melville that most of the commercial real estate activity on Long Island is generated by companies already here.

"We really have no new companies coming to Long Island, and unless we are able to attract companies, then it's just musical chairs," he said.

Mitchell Pally, chief executive of the Long Island Builders Institute trade group, said the future of residential real estate development on Long Island looks more like Brooklyn and Queens than its single-family home suburban enclaves.

"We have to provide what the young people want, and in most cases on Long Island we don't provide that, and so it puts us at a competitive disadvantage," he said. "On Long Island we try to shoehorn everybody into a single-family [home], and that is not what young people want. It's not a question of can they afford it -- they don't want it."

Long Island has fewer renters than the national average. The 2010 Census showed that renters were living in 20.7 percent of occupied homes in Nassau and Suffolk, compared to 34.9 percent nationally.

Christopher Jones, a Regional Plan Association researcher, said in an interview 20- and 30-somethings are increasingly seeking downtown lifestyles.

"They're driving less than previous generations, they're renting longer before they purchase a home, they're marrying later, and there's just more of a tendency to want to live where you can walk to stores, nightlife and transportation to work," Jones said. "Every suburban area in the country is trying to figure out how they can accommodate this changing demand without really altering the types of suburban neighborhoods that a lot of people still want to live in."

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