Credit: Newsday / Raychel Brightman

A developer broke ground on the Ronkonkoma Hub Monday, officially launching work on a $600 million project that will create apartments, stores, restaurants and office space in an effort to revitalize the struggling downtown.

Once completed in 10 years, the Hub is expected to include as many as 1,450 apartments and 545,000 square feet of retail and office space on 50 acres.

Monday’s groundbreaking celebrated the start of Phase 1, which calls for 489 residential units across six buildings.

The project is close to the Ronkonkoma LIRR station, Long Island MacAruthur Airport and the Long Island Expressway. Locating the Hub at the intersection of road, rail and air was not an accident, officials touting the development at said at the groundbreaking ceremony.

“This project is something out of the ordinary,” Brookhaven Town Supervisor Edward P. Romaine said. “Normally we’ve been dealing with urban sprawl. This does just the opposite. This is a transit oriented development.”

Brookhaven officials in 2012 selected Tritec Real Estate of East Setauket as the Hub’s master developer. Since then, the project has won support from government, business and civic leaders, and residents.

“This is what we must do to make our region attractive and competitive once again for the very people that we need so we can reach our economic potential, and that is those high-skilled, high-knowledge workers that we’ve lost too many of,” Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone said at the groundbreaking. “This project represents what will bring them back: the building out of an ecosystem that delivers all the things that they want and they need right here.”

Supporters have said the Hub will revitalize a neglected section of Ronkonkoma, provide sought-after affordable housing, and open up new shopping options for thousands of Long Island Rail Road commuters who use the train station each day. The Ronkonkoma LIRR station is now surrounded by aging storefronts and parking lots, all of which will be replaced with four- and five-floor buildings with street level stores and upper level offices and apartments.

“Aside from the beautification of the blighted area, benefits from modernizing and developing the Ronkonkoma Hub will reach all of Long Island,” said Denise Schwarz, president of the Ronkonkoma Chamber of Commerce.

She said the chamber envisions “a sustainable, vibrant, walkable redevelopment that will create jobs, increase tax revenue, increase the value of surrounding real estate and provide much needed housing within walking distance from the busiest train station on Long Island.”

The project has received funding from several levels of government. In June, Empire State Development, New York’s main business aid agency, awarded the project $50 million for parking garages. The county legislature in March approved a $26.4 million deal to connect the Hub to the Southwest Sewer District.

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