Over the past year, three rental developments have sprung up on the Island, increasing housing options that had previously been lacking into Hempstead, Huntington Station and Riverhead. The projects are part of a trend toward bringing modern apartments, with a mix of affordable and market-rate rents, to downtown areas. Each complex has its own interesting twist.
In a heavily trafficked part of Hempstead, New York City-based La Cité Development completed Nassau County's first prefabricated high-rise apartment building last year. Called Village Lofts, the development, which replaced four vacant, dilapidated houses, includes both market-rate and affordable apartments among its 29 units, with the developers touting its sleek, contemporary feel and a construction method that saved both time and money.
WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT? Clayton Homes built each module at a factory in Tennessee, where the company is based. Everything -- including the kitchen cabinets, tiles and bathtubs -- was installed at the factory, then the fully assembled units were transported by truck to Long Island and stacked on the foundation to make the four-story building.
Dan Bythewood, La Cité Development's president, says the construction for Village Lofts was about 15 percent cheaper, saving more than $1 million on the approximately $9 million project and helping the company fulfill the goal of bringing affordable housing to Hempstead.
Six of the 29 units are considered affordable -- about $700 to $800 less per month than the market-rate units, which start at $1,650 for a one-bedroom -- and were awarded by the developer through a lottery process. Two of the units were available to residents who make 50 percent of the area median income and four units were available to residents making 60 percent of the area median income, which varies based on family size.
Modular construction is common for single-family homes and has recently started catching on for high-rises. The 32-story B2 tower at Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards, built by Forest City Ratner in 2013, is said to be the world's tallest prefabricated building.
Village Lofts was Clayton Homes' second modular project on Long Island, but its first high-rise. The company built a two-story senior housing complex on the grounds of St. Michael's Lutheran Church in Amagansett in 2012.
WHAT THEY'RE LIKE. The apartments have a sleek, contemporary feel, with wide-plank maple wood floors, nearly 10-foot ceilings and open kitchens with solid hardwood cabinets and GE Energy Star appliances. The project also had a green aspect, with prefabrication allowing for much less construction waste and greater insulation, reducing heating and cooling costs.
WHAT DO RESIDENTS SAY? Jammie Freeman, 44, a plumber who grew up in Hempstead, moved into a one-bedroom apartment after working on the building during construction, connecting the building's plumbing to the town's water supply and sewage systems. He's also the building's superintendent. Freeman says he is impressed with the luxurious design and spacious rooms. The building is home to several families and many single people of all ages.
"It's different for the area," Freeman says. "It looks good and it seems like it can make a change for the community because it's building it up a little bit. It amazes everybody that sees it. They say, 'I didn't realize something like this would be in Hempstead.' "
WHAT'S AVAILABLE? The building, at 479 Front St., is made up of one- and two-bedroom units, including two duplex apartments. The building is currently fully rented. Call Matthew Korman or Orlando Frade of Douglas Elliman Real Estate at 516-327-6264.
One of the newest AvalonBay developments brought 303 rental apartments -- 43 of them considered affordable -- last year to Huntington Station, an area dominated by single-family homes. The affordable units range from $1,013 a month for a one-bedroom to $1,623 for a three-bedroom, compared with market-rate rents of around $2,675 a month for a one-bedroom and more than $3,000 a month for a three-bedroom. The complex is centered around a clubhouse with a gym and pool.
WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT? This new development from Virginia-based AvalonBay, known for its upscale rentals, is the first piece of a plan to revitalize Huntington Station. Built on more than 26 acres and less than a half-mile from the Long Island Rail Road station, the development has drawn a mix of young singles, couples and families who are not looking or are not yet ready to buy a home, as well as downsizing empty-nesters.
"Huntington Station has had its challenges over the years," says Christopher Capece, senior development director for AvalonBay Communities. "To have a company like Avalon make a $100-plus-million investment in the community is something I think can be game changing."
The development wasn't without controversy, with some residents opposed to the project because of concerns about traffic, density and how the housing would affect the feel of the community.
The apartments, which include kitchens with cherrywood cabinets and in-unit washers and dryers, are about 98 percent occupied, says Capece.
The complex includes a clubhouse with a spacious gym that's open 24 hours a day, a pool and a barbecue area that gets busy in warm weather.
WHAT DO RESIDENTS SAY? Corinne Newton, a real estate agent who grew up three blocks away, returned to the area after living in Washington, D.C., and Seattle, moving into a two-bedroom apartment in the complex with her husband, Christopher, and their 1-year-old son, Maximus.
"There isn't anything like that in Huntington," Newton says.
Newton and her husband, both in their mid-30s, want to buy a house eventually, but in the meantime, they like that the complex has a neighborhood feel. They held Maximus' first birthday party in a room at the clubhouse, and were able to host two dozen people and use the space as if it were their own.
"In the summer, there are people grilling, there are always people in there playing in the pool," Newton says.
WHAT'S AVAILABLE? An approximately 950-square-foot, second-floor one-bedroom unit at the complex, at 1700 E. Fifth St., is available for $2,680 a month. There are also three two-bedroom, two-bathroom apartments currently available, ranging from $2,680 to $2,830 a month, and three three-bedroom, three-bathroom units that range from $2,960 to $3,480 a month. For more information, call 866-963-6791 or visit avaloncommunities.com
THE WOOLWORTH BUILDING
On Main Street in Riverhead, what was known as the Woolworth Building had been vacant since the Woolworth department store closed in 1997. The renovated building is now home to 19 affordable apartments in a neighborhood that is undergoing a revitalization, with new shops and restaurants opening and the refurbished Art Deco Suffolk Theatre and Performing Arts Center hosting comedy and music performances.
WHAT MAKES IT DIFFERENT? The building, one of the most visible on Riverhead's Main Street, had been in disrepair for 15 years until Woolworth Revitalization LLC purchased it from New York City-based Area Property Partners for $2 million in February 2013. The company spent $5.5 million on renovations, including a new roof, new water, gas and electric utility services and restoration of the facade and the Art Deco lobby.
"When we walked in there, it was in terrible shape," says Michael Butler, managing partner of Woolworth Revitalization. "This was a big eyesore in the middle of downtown Riverhead, so now we've put life back into it."
The building's second floor now houses 19 affordable studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, with rents ranging from $895 to $1,528 a month. Because of funding that came from federal and local programs, the developer is obligated to keep rents at affordable levels to those making between 50 percent and 80 percent of the Nassau-Suffolk median income, which varies based on family size. The first residents, who moved in during February, were chosen through a lottery and subject to income restriction requirements.
The ground floor houses Maximus Health and Fitness Center and a Goldberg's Bagels store, with 2,000 square feet of retail space still available. There is parking in the back, and with Riverhead among one of Long Island's many downtown areas undergoing a revival, there also are a growing number of businesses and outdoor events within walking distance and a promenade along the Peconic River.
"People can have the best of both worlds -- they have the parking and a livable, walkable community," Butler says. "We felt it would attract young professionals who didn't want to live in a house."
WHAT DO RESIDENTS SAY? Bastiaan Ekeler and his wife, Alicia Valle, had lived in an older, three-story apartment building in Greenport before moving into the Woolworth Building in February. Valle, 29, runs the tasting room for Lieb Cellars in Cutchogue, while Ekeler, 28, who emigrated last year from Holland, works as a freelance designer and Web developer. The couple wanted something on the North Fork, but also hoped to be a little closer to New York City.
"A lot of things were overpriced and not really that nice, or too far west to work in Cutchogue," Ekeler says.
The renovated building and low rents attracted the couple, but they say they also discovered a great community with a lot going on.
"Up until we found this place, we never really considered Riverhead," Ekeler says. "It's really beautiful, and it seems to be a pretty great place to be. There are a lot of nice restaurants and stores right here on Main Street."
Rents are $895 for studios, $1,133 for one bedroom, and $1,528 for two bedrooms at the complex, which is at 130 E. Main St. As of press time, there were one one-bedroom and two two-bedroom apartments for rent. Applications are available at woolworthapartments.com. For more information on income qualifications, contact the Long Island Housing Partnership at 631-435-4710.