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Babylon OKs $750G design team for Wyandanch revitalization

The town of Babylon Wednesday approved a contract with a Maryland-based firm to design its expansive Wyandanch revitalization.

The firm, Torti Gallas and Partners, will be paid $750,000 to design Wyandanch Rising, Babylon's $500-million redevelopment centered on the Long Island Rail Road station. The plan calls for a downtown revitalization, with a new "intermodal" parking facility, mixed-use buildings containing retail and residential space, and plazas with fountains and an ice-skating rink.

The contract, which has not been signed, was approved at Wednesday's town board meeting. The design firm's fees will be paid through the $1.5 million the town received last year from the state's Brownfield Opportunity Areas program.

Wednesday, members of the firm took their first tour of Wyandanch, said Supervisor Steve Bellone. He said the firm - selected from eight finalists - offers "fantastic" design capabilities and a proven track record, having completed successful redevelopment projects around the country. It also understands the markets in communities in which it works, he said.

"They were able to point to a dozen examples of really well-designed projects that actually got built," he said. "That says to me they're not just doing pie-in-the-sky work, they're actually grounded in reality."

During the firm's presentation in December, the town questioned the team's lack of retail and housing specialists, something many other firms possessed. Bellone said Torti Gallas agreed to hire specialists for the project. Another concern was the firm's fee, which topped $1 million - more than $200,000 more than other firms requested. Bellone said Torti Gallas lowered its fee during contract negotiations.

Torti Gallas could not be reached for comment.

The town also approved Wednesday an $80,000 contract with Speck & Associates Llc, the Washington, D.C. firm headed by Jeff Speck, planner and author of the acclaimed "Suburban Nation: The Rise of Sprawl and the Decline of the American Dream," who was hired as a consultant by the town.

Speck will oversee the work of Torti Gallas, Bellone said. The next step, Bellone said, will be a charrette - an intense, multiday design process made up of work and public input sessions. Bellone said he expects this to happen within the next three or four months.

"Now this is about taking it down to the intimate details of what a development will look like," he said. "It's the final step in placing the pieces."

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