Build it, and they will come.
That's the belief being banked on by the master developer for the $500 million Wyandanch Rising revitalization project.
In just a few months, the project's master developer, Albanese Organization Inc. of Garden City, hopes to break ground for an apartment building, which would be the initiative's first major construction.
Wyandanch Rising is the Town of Babylon's public-private effort to revitalize the hamlet's downtown. It includes building a transit plaza near the Long Island Rail Road station, creating mixed-use buildings and completing the sewer line down Straight Path that has been under construction for more than a year.
The sewer work suffered delays in part due to superstorm Sandy, said Jonathan Keyes, the town's head of downtown revitalization. But, he said, "it didn't knock us off, we're still moving forward."
The mixed-use buildings and transit plaza are central components of the revitalization, Keyes said. Located on Straight Path north of the LIRR station, the two buildings will be connected by a passageway and have a public plaza between them. A third, commercial building, is being designed.
Plans originally called for four buildings with both rental and condo units, but the two buildings being constructed will be just rental. "We could not interest lenders in providing loans for ownership," Albanese executive vice president George Aridas said. He added it "wasn't Wyandanch-oriented; it was a general real estate market reaction."
The buildings, which will also have retail space, will be on the site of a former shopping center, which the town purchased in 2011 through eminent domain for nearly $3 million. Aridas said he has been in talks with some of the shopping center's tenants, as well as with restaurants and commuter-oriented businesses, but none have committed.
"I'd love to have somebody come in and say, 'Let me sign that piece of paper and guarantee you rent,' " he said. "But if I can't show them I'm in construction, that tends to be more of an empty promise."
Albanese has amassed $65 million to $70 million for the two buildings in the form of private capital, syndication of tax credits, state subsidies and debt, Aridas said. The largest source of funding on the first building -- $17 million -- is from federal tax credits for affordable housing, which will make up 56 percent of the first building and 65 percent of the second, Aridas said.
"There's not a lot of this type of unit on Long Island," he said. "It's one of the reasons why we lose a lot of our younger folks because we don't give them an opportunity to have a place to live that isn't doubling up or someone's basement or an illegal two bedroom."
Aridas said his company aims to break ground in May and start renting out units next fall. He said that as long as the economy continues to slowly improve, he is not worried about finding tenants.
"You mention Wyandanch to people, and sometimes they look at you like you have two heads," Aridas said. "But when people see the public improvements that are going in and when they see the beauty of these buildings and sort of get the idea of a walkable community, I don't have a lot of concerns about the receptivity of the market."
PLANS FOR TWO RENTAL BUILDINGS
The two new buildings in Wyandanch will have a total of 176 rental units and 37,000 square feet of retail.
Four stories of residential apartments One story of retail
90 rental units: 35 one-bedroom, 47 two-bedroom and eight three-bedroom
Cost: $30 million
Three stories of residential apartments
One story of retail
86 rental units: nine studio, 53 one-bedroom, 18 two-bedroom and six three-bedroom
Cost: $36 million