Smithtown officials on Thursday will unveil a downtown action plan for Kings Park designed to help jump-start the lagging business district.
More than a dozen recommended “priority actions” include the matter-of-fact, such as improving sidewalks and street crossings to make walking and window-shopping easier. The plan’s authors also recommend moving the popular farmers market from the municipal lot across from the fire department to the more centrally located Long Island Rail Road lot, where its shoppers are more likely to patronize the hamlet’s other businesses.
They suggest bringing a coffee shop to vacant space off Route 25A to “activate” Russ Savatt Park, where a handful of tree-shaded benches and tables lie between the LIRR lot and the road. In a nod to the difficulties of brick-and-mortar business in the e-commerce age, they suggest experiential retail and marketing efforts, giving as an example a “Joy of Cookies” tour in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, that attracted families and showcased one of that city’s business districts.
Town officials shared drafts of the action plan and an earlier marketing study by Larisa Ortiz Associates of Queens. Smithtown paid the firm’s $37,000 fee through a Suffolk County grant. The findings will be discussed at the town board meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall, 99 W. Main St.
Officials hope to revive a business district with an 18 percent vacancy rate. It must compete with Commack and Northport and is hamstrung by a lack of sewers, making it difficult to build new housing or bars and restaurants.
Work on a $20 million sewer system — by far the biggest and costliest improvement, to be paid for with New York State funds — could start as early as 2019, Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone has said.
Ortiz’s reports did not include price estimates for implementation of the smaller improvements. David Flynn, the town’s chief planner, said in an email that many appeared to be relatively affordable, but that prices could vary widely. For example, growing some of the parking lots off Route 25A, as the action plans suggests, could cost from $200,000 to many times that, depending on the type of surfacing and number of spots added.
Town officials and civic leaders who have seen early drafts of the Ortiz reports said they were heartened by some of the conclusions, not least that the hamlet now suffers from $101.8 million in annual “leakage.” The “leakage,” an estimate of the discretionary spending of area residents less the amount that local stores are selling, suggests that Kings Park residents are doing a considerable amount of their shopping outside the community.
“To me, that means potential,” said Tony Tanzi, a major commercial landlord and president of the Kings Park Chamber of Commerce. “They’re spending it outside of Kings Park for a reason, and if we can dial in what we’re doing wrong, we can fix it.”