Design by LTL Architects for Westbury.

Design by LTL Architects for Westbury. Credit: LTL Architects

Parking structures are a hot design idea nationally, from a stylish one in Miami so hip that couples have wed there, to one in Santa Monica, Calif., with colorful glass illuminated at night.

Long Islanders, however, have yet to show the bulky commuter garages much love, and the Rauch Foundation, a nonprofit promoting innovative planning ideas, aims to change that with its ParkingPLUS Design Challenge.

Early Thursday it will unveil four concepts for four Long Island Rail Road stations -- in Patchogue, Rockville Centre, Ronkonkoma and Westbury -- that it hopes at the very least will kick off public discussions about new ideas for downtown development and efficient land use.

"I'm very invested in trying to have a conversation about what we could do about parking downtown and using these designs as a jumping-off point for those conversations," said Ann Golob, director of the Long Island Index at the Rauch Foundation.

In a presentation at Adelphi University, local and county officials, planners and Long Island Rail Road executives will hear the four architectural design teams explain their ideas. Local officials said they liked some of the elements in what they had seen so far.

In Ronkonkoma, the plan "ParksandRides" by Roger Sherman Architecture and Urban Design of Los Angeles features a bubble-wrap structure longer than the Empire State Building laid on its side that would house parking along with activities such as mini-golf, go-karts, a hockey rink and driving range, soccer fields and a cricket stadium as well as a hotel and business uses.

In Rockville Centre, the plan by Utile Design Inc., based in Boston, calls for structures up to four stories on three lots incorporating tall arched spaces at ground level with room for civic events such as markets and festivals when not in use for parking, plus housing, retail space and tennis courts. The lots would be linked via the columned pedestrian passageway under the elevated tracks.

In Westbury, LTL Architects of Manhattan proposed dramatic terraced housing atop a multistory parking structure abutting the elevated tracks with a passage overhead to additional structures south of the tracks incorporating business space and bicycle facilities. It would also create a larger, clearer passage between the north and south sides of the tracks. "We were thinking equal parts pragmatism and invention," architect David Lewis said.

In Patchogue, where village officials stressed all they wanted was more parking to deal with the cars drawn to the village by its continuing redevelopment, dub Studios drew up a plan for a parking deck linked by passageways to existing lots.

"We said, look, you actually have a lot of parking that isn't being used all the time," said Michael Piper, the project manager for dub Studios. "Can we design signage and make the parking lots feel better to be in?"

Mayor Paul Pontieri said spots fill up on busy weekends and some weeknights because of its performance spaces and many restaurants, and that the deck would add needed space.

In Rockville Centre, Mayor Fran Murray said the LIRR wanted a parking structure, but that he had conditions: "If they are going to come up with funding, and agree on reserved spots for village residents, and they'll add more trains, then we're good."

Sarah Lansdale, director of planning for Suffolk County, said she liked that the Ronkonkoma facility could be utilized beyond the workweek "so that it becomes a destination and a place beyond just a park and ride."

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