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Four firms in running for Ronkonkoma Hub

A rendering of the proposed Ronkonkoma Hub.

A rendering of the proposed Ronkonkoma Hub. Photo Credit: Handout

The Final Four have emerged in the bid to develop the Ronkonkoma Hub project.

Four local developers submitted applications by a Friday deadline to redevelop the 50 acres around the Ronkonkoma train station into a mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly community.

The Beechwood Organization of Jericho, R Squared Real Estate Partners of Melville, Renaissance Downtowns LLC of Plainview and TRITEC Real Estate Company of East Setauket all responded to Brookhaven's request for qualifications, issued in September.

Renaissance Downtowns is partnering with multinational developer Jones Lang LaSalle and Uniondale's RXR Realty on its application, Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko said.

Details of the applications were not released. Lesko said he had not had time to review the submissions, and the four developers declined to elaborate on their plans.

Chance to reshape Suffolk

The Ronkonkoma Hub has been touted as a "transformative" project that, along with a related project with Islip that would link it to Long Island MacArthur Airport, could reshape Suffolk County, advocates say.

"It's one of those rare Long Island locations that's ripe for redevelopment and has the ability to be tied into a transportation hub," said Gregg Rechler, president of R Squared Real Estate Partners.

Jim Coughlan of TRITEC said the project's goals and scale were of a scope not often seen on Long Island. "We are thrilled at the opportunity to do a transformative project in our own backyard," he said.

The Hub is one of 47 proposals on Long Island competing for $200 million in funding from the Empire State Development Corp. They are vying against projects from nine other New York regions at a difficult time for developments to find funding.

Lesko said the town was satisfied with the level of interest and the solid financials of developers vying for the project, which he estimated would cost $300 million to $350 million.

"On the face of it, knowing the reputation of these four groups, they have the financial ability to do this, which is exciting," Lesko said.

A clear vision

Sean McLean, vice president of planning and development for Renaissance Downtowns, said the project takes the unusual approach of going to developers with a clear vision, rather than the other way around.

"It's a new day in real estate development," said McLean. "The way the town has gone about this, you're going to see some exciting stuff out there."

Michael Dubb, who heads the Beechwood Organization, described the Hub project as a "complicated job," in part because it involves private land.

Rechler agreed, saying the acquisition of private land is the project's "biggest hurdle."

Islip Town Supervisor Phil Nolan, who is working with Lesko in a joint bid for state and federal funds under the umbrella of a combined Ronkonkoma Hub-Long Island MacArthur Airport redevelopment, welcomed the news.

"It's exciting to have developers of this caliber with this kind of financial wherewithal actively competing for this opportunity. It says a lot about the opportunity," Nolan said.

The next step is for Brookhaven's design committee to recommend a developer by Dec. 7. The town board is likely to vote on the recommendation at its final meeting of the year on Dec. 13. At the same time, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is expected to decide which regional projects, including the Hub, get a portion of $200 million in state funding.

"You have to applaud Lesko for making this happen," McLean said. "This is something Long Island desperately needs."

With Sarah Crichton and Randi F. Marshall

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