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Developers seek to rezone industrial park to build apartments

Apartments are proposed at the Hauppauge Innovation Park,

Apartments are proposed at the Hauppauge Innovation Park, parts of which front Motor Parkway and Old Willets Path. Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

Smithtown officials will propose zoning changes to encourage construction of as many as 1,000 apartments in the Long Island Innovation Park at Hauppauge, Smithtown Supervisor Edward Wehrheim said. 

The rezoning, which the town council is scheduled to take up at a future public hearing, would enable mixed-use development on a far larger scale than Smithtown officials have previously contemplated. Apartments, commercial and office space along with resident- or shopper-friendly amenities would also mark a departure for the Innovation Park, an industrial center for 40 years now being repositioned by its stakeholders for a changed Long Island economy.

“The park was built for industry, but industry for the most part has left,” Wehrheim said in an interview, citing a shift in tenancy to high-tech businesses that might be better able to take advantage of mixed-use buildings. He envisioned a mix of studios and one- and two-bedroom apartments for young professionals looking for cheaper housing than can be found in the single-family home markets or the convenience of a short commute to work. 

Park businesses account for 55,000 jobs and about $19 million in town property taxes, so town officials do not want them displaced by a flood of residential development. Thirteen parcels of seven acres or more in the 1,650-acre park would be eligible for mixed-use development under the rezoning, with existing buildings demolished or retrofitted, he said. Eligible lots front Motor Parkway and portions of Old Willets Path, Adams Avenue, Moreland Road and Marcus Boulevard, areas away from the residential neighborhoods to the north of the park. 

At least half of the ground floor of a mixed-use building would be devoted to retail, bars, restaurants or entertainment uses.

The proposed changes come after a report commissioned by the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency last year that called for the park to position itself as a regional economic hub, target tenants from key industries and create an environment to attract and keep workers. 

Eric Alexander, director of Vision Long Island, a Northport-based downtown planning group, said there was little precedent on Long Island for industrial to residential conversion. Several Brooklyn neighborhoods offer successful examples, but the park has bigger setbacks, longer blocks and fewer sidewalks than most of those neighborhoods.

But apartments in the park would add significant variety for prospective apartment dwellers who are now limited to in-law units in single-family homes, garden apartment complexes or mostly small scale mixed-uses in hamlet downtowns, he said.

A fifth of all residential units would be affordable housing, but price is a “giant asterisk,” Alexander said. With one-bedroom rents for some nearby apartments topping $2,000, smaller units renting for $1,100 to $1,200 could attract significant demand. “We need massive creativity in the land use map, given the economic space we’re going to be in,” he said. “We don’t want development for development’s sake. We want things planned properly.” 

Jack Kulka, a builder and developer who is based in the park and helped found the Hauppauge Industrial Association Long Island, which represents park businesses, said there was already interest from landowners interested in converting buildings — himself included. 

He predicted a mix of housing and commercial space to serve new hires from out of the area as well as young Long Islanders who might otherwise leave the area or stay in their childhood homes. 

“It’ll be good for the school district because of the taxes, good for the town because it’ll draw both industry and individuals,” he said. 

Long Island Innovation Park mixed-use building proposal:

  • Lots seven acres or bigger would be developed
  • Eligible lots front roads, including Motor Parkway and Old Willets Path
  • Half of the ground floor to be devoted to uses, such as bars and restaurants
  • Off-street parking would be required