The first transit-oriented development in Smithtown history broke ground Monday, with developers and elected officials swinging ceremonial gold shovels in an empty lot across from town hall.
This is “exactly what we need to be doing across Suffolk County and across Long Island,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, a Democrat running for re-election who has gotten warm welcomes from town Supervisor Edward Wehrheim, a Republican, on previous visits to announce county aid for sewers and municipal parking lots.
The Lofts at Maple and Main, an $18.2 million project by Northport-based VEA 181st Realty, will transform the former site of the Nassau-Suffolk Lumber & Supply Corp. across from town hall, adding 71 one- and two-bedroom apartments and 15,000 square feet of retail space to a 3.6-acre site. The town’s Long Island Rail Road stop and Village of the Branch shopping centers are a few minutes’ walk away.
Developers, in documents filed with town planners, said they would build one three-story mixed-use building along Main Street with ground-floor retail and apartments above. Three 12-unit, three-story apartment buildings will go behind, along with 159 parking spaces and a small-scale sewage treatment plant. Two existing buildings near Maple Avenue will be renovated.
Town officials estimated the project would generate more than $250,000 in property taxes, and developers said in documents filed with town planners that it would generate 50 jobs.
Six apartments will be set aside for affordable housing; the other apartments will rent for roughly $1,700 to $1,800 for one-bedrooms and in the high $2,000s to $3,000 for two-bedrooms, said Anthony DiCarlo, the son of VEA principal Sal DiCarlo. Commercial rents will be roughly $25 per square foot, he said. Work will start immediately and should finish in a year to a year and a half.
A 2012 grand jury report said two unidentified town officials pressured Sal DiCarlo to improperly demolish buildings at the property in 2009, but no charges were filed. More buildings were demolished after 2014 town council approvals.
Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, a nonprofit that advocates for smart growth on Long Island, said almost all of Long Island's 14,000 transit-oriented development residential units are occupied, and that developments of dozens or hundreds of units in places such as Farmingdale and Rockville Centre had contributed to lower commercial real estate vacancy rates, with new businesses sprouting to serve new residents. “There is a direct correlation between residential and small-business development,” he said.
Downtown Smithtown’s low-slung buildings and a large Smithtown School District property on New York Avenue could attract more developers, and Deputy Supervisor Thomas McCarthy said Monday’s groundbreaking was “just the beginning” for the area.
Obstacles include a lack of sewers and long commute, with much peak LIRR service taking 90 minutes or more to travel to or from Penn Station, but McCarthy said he would meet in the next month with LIRR officials to discuss faster train service.
In the meantime, he and other Smithtown boosters can tout affordability as an advantage town life has over the city: Median rental price for a one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan was a whopping $3,575 in September, according to real estate firm Douglas Elliman.