Officials have touted a new Starbucks that was drawn to downtown Farmingdale by nearly 200 new apartments as the latest exemplar of the area’s revitalization through transit-oriented housing.
Mayor Ralph Ekstrand and Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano were among those on hand Wednesday to formally inaugurate the Starbucks, which opened Feb. 4 and is a short walk from the Long Island Rail Road station.
The coffee shop is the first of seven commercial spaces to open below The Jefferson at Farmingdale Plaza, a two-building, 154-unit apartment complex that is across the railroad tracks from The Cornerstone, a 42-unit apartment building that is slated to open in June. Anthony Bartone, the Farmingdale-based co-developer of the 196 apartments, said five of the other six commercial locations are leased. The final units of The Jefferson were completed in December.
Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, which promotes transit-oriented housing, said the new retail outlets and the increase in foot traffic for some businesses on nearby Main Street “shows there’s a tremendous synergy between downtown residential housing and the health of local businesses. If you get people living downtown, they’re built-in customers.”
Phil Cirrone, the co-licensee of the Starbucks, said he wouldn’t have opened there if it hadn’t been for the new housing. LIRR commuters wouldn’t have provided enough business, he said.
“You need the people after the 9 o’clock rush hour,” Cirrone said. “By having housing here, you have people morning, noon and night. You have this whole new exciting hub here.”
Cirrone also has seen an uptick in customers in the past year at Stuff a Bagel, which he and wife Lisa own less than three blocks away on Main Street. The 30-year-old bagel shop’s foot traffic had previously declined as a nearby factory closed and more residents began shopping at malls and big-box stores, Cirrone said.
Ekstrand said 26 Main Street storefronts were vacant five years ago. Now only two are. He credited the housing with spiking interest in the area.
As Bartone is finishing construction on the 42 new units, another developer is building 53 apartments and 3,000 square feet of retail space elsewhere downtown, Ekstrand said. All of the projects received tax breaks from the Nassau County Industrial Development Agency.
Mangano said Farmingdale’s success with transit-oriented housing is a model for other Long Island communities.
“It really is the answer for our downtown areas,” he said.