Developers and their attorneys shook hands and congratulated each other last week as the Islip Pines project in Holbrook received a unanimous recommendation from the Islip Town Planning Board, more than five years after the initial zoning change application was submitted.
In 2006, Serota Properties of Valley Stream -- which acquired the 136-acre site three decades ago for $7 million -- scrapped the idea of an industrial park and began drawing up plans for what would be Long Island's first large-scale mixed-use property designed to attract tech-driven companies and young professionals, said Bram Weber, Serota's attorney.
"The old office park isn't what businesses want because they know their employees don't want it," Weber said. "They know their employees want to be able to leave work and go and grab a hamburger and go have dinner and hang out with their friends and go see a movie and walk home."
Hundreds of residents and business-community members concerned with the project's impact on traffic, the environment and surrounding small businesses have spoken against the project over the years. Last week, about 30 speakers lined up in a last-ditch effort to derail the project before the Islip Town Board, two years after the public comment period officially closed.
The presidents of two area Chambers of Commerce differed on the impact of the $300 million project on local business districts. Kevin Guilfoyle, of Holbrook's chamber, says the project will not be a detriment to the "already dying" downtown strips, while Frank D'Andrea of the Sayville chamber said Islip Pines will cause further harm.
Plans for the site, which sits north of the intersection of Sunrise Highway and Veterans Memorial Highway, have changed since the initial site plans were submitted in 2009. About 143,000 square feet of retail was eliminated while more green space was added, sewage lines were designed and all buildings were limited to four stories.
The complex now includes 1.1 million square feet of industrial and office space, 339,000 square feet of retail including two big-box stores, 178,000 square feet of entertainment space, and 38,000 square feet of commercial space. A hotel, movie theater and 350 residential units are also planned. It has not been decided if the apartments will be rentals or condominiums, Weber said.
Now that the planning board has given its OK, the Islip Town Board has the final vote to authorize a zoning change from Industrial One District and Industrial Corridor District to a Mixed-Use Planned Development District. The vote date has not yet been set.
If the zoning change passes, Serota will have one final hurdle: the state Department of Transportation, along with the Suffolk County and Islip Department of Public Works, must approve a traffic study.
Weber and his team are hopeful. "I think we finally have a cohesive town board who recognizes that we are at a tipping point," he said. "And the old ways, former ways of trying to protect the way of life are no longer going to be well-served for the people of Long Island."