Smithtown Central School District has reached an agreement to sell its administrative offices to a Nashville, Tennessee, developer that would build one- and two-bedroom apartments on the roughly 13-acre site.
The price is $14.8 million, or $71,000 for each apartment the developer builds, whichever is greater. The deal was announced on the district’s website late last month after a 5-0 Board of Education vote on Oct. 25.
“We look forward to engaging neighbors and town leaders in an open dialogue that will make an important contribution to the vision, design program and schedule for this project,” a spokeswoman for the developer, Southern Land Co., wrote in an emailed statement.
Two sample site plans attached to the contract posted on the district’s website call for 13 buildings with 250 units in one plan, and 14 buildings with 252 units in the other. The property is at 26 New York Ave.
“The proposed use of the property is one that would benefit our school community,” school Superintendent James Grossane wrote in a note to residents posted on the website. “If finalized, the sale will potentially expand our tax base, lowering the burden on our residents and provide additional resources to enhance our educational programs.”
In an email, Grossane said most district offices would move to Nesconset Elementary School, which closed in 2012 because of declining enrollment. Proceeds from selling the New York Avenue property would go into reserves.
The Southern Land Co.’s sample plans, which are described as “conceptual” and have not been submitted to Smithtown for review, call for three-story apartment buildings and a sewage treatment plant. Some of the playing fields that now stand behind the offices would be built over, but the plans call for two fields on the back of the property, near Colonial Road.
Both plans call for preservation of the pre-Revolutionary War Arthur House located on the property.
The sale is contingent on rezoning and site plan approval for at least 208 units from Smithtown Town. The contract calls for units of 1,200 square feet or smaller and indicates that Southern Land Co. will seek 15 years of tax abatements from Suffolk County.
Town officials said announcement of the deal had caught them by surprise. “We anxiously await someone from the company coming to talk to us,” Supervisor Patrick Vecchio said.
Local officials have already indicated considerable interest in Smithtown’s downtown development. On a walking tour last year with Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Vecchio pointed out several sites he said were poised for residential and retail development.
Also in 2015, the town’s planners recommended changes to its master plan for hamlet downtowns, including pedestrian-friendly business districts, civic attractions like museums and parks, additional parking, and apartments above and behind stores.
Development at the New York Avenue location would put residents within walking distance of the Long Island Rail Road station as well as downtown shops and restaurants.
But Vecchio and David Flynn, the town planning chief, said that the sewage treatment plant — required by the county if the Southern Land Co. builds to full density — would be expensive. And whatever enthusiasm town officials may have shown in the past for downtown redevelopment, it is “too early” to know how the Town Board might respond to a petition for rezoning at the site, Flynn warned.
Mark Mancini, an architect with an office in town, expressed little enthusiasm for the administrative building, which likely would be demolished in the event of redevelopment. He grew effusive when it came to development potential: “This could be start up housing for young people. You dream about your children being able to start out on Long Island and stay here.”
A SITE WITH HISTORY
The administrative building was built in 1924 and was the Smithtown school district’s first school as well as a source of pride for a young community. During the Great Depression, it housed job boards for town residents; during World War II, it provided a vantage point for plane spotters on the lookout for Nazi bombers.