The Ronkonkoma Hub retail and apartment complex has been approved by the Brookhaven Town Board -- a move hailed by supporters as a boost for the Long Island economy.

Supporters have said the $475 million project -- which could include up to 1,450 apartments and 545,000 square feet of retail and office space -- will rehabilitate a blighted business district centered around a Long Island Rail Road station near Long Island MacArthur Airport.

The site's master developer, Tritec Real Estate of East Setauket, has envisioned the project as a gateway to the East End, with entertainment venues, restaurants, clubs, medical offices and apartments. Construction is expected to begin by early next year.

Kevin Law, president and chief executive of the Long Island Association, said the Hub fills a need for affordable housing with access to public transportation in a setting that appeals to young adults.

"There is a shortage of multifamily housing, and this project helps address that need," Law said Wednesday.

The town board on Tuesday approved five key resolutions related to the project, including zoning changes, an environmental assessment and creation of urban renewal and transit-oriented development zones. Four of the five votes were unanimous. Councilwoman Valerie Cartright cast the dissenting vote on a zoning change resolution. She did not explain her vote.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

More than 100 Hub opponents attended the meeting, most of them employees of North Fork Express, a Hampton Bays charter bus company with a terminal in Ronkonkoma. Several employees said they feared the town would seize the terminal by eminent domain. They left before the board voted.

Town officials have said they do not plan to seize property for the project.

In an interview Wednesday, North Fork Express president Gregory Mensch said the Hub would interfere with his plans to expand the terminal and add apartments on an upper floor.

@Newsday

Mensch said he had declined to sell the 2.2-acre site to Tritec last year. "We would sell the property if we get the highest or best use, but we want to develop the property," he said.

Tritec chief operating officer Rob Loscalzo said negotiations with the bus company were "at a standstill," but that the site was "not critical" to the project. "If we have to, there are ways to work around certain groups," he said.

Loscalzo said the company is developing site plans for the project's first phase, which must be approved by the town.