Two weeks ahead of a final vote on the project, more than 100 Patchogue residents and business owners turned out Wednesday night at the Elks Lodge on Oak Street to get a look at a revised $100-million mixed-use redevelopment plan for the heart of downtown.
The project, called Patchogue New Village, calls for 17,000 square feet of office space, 45,000 square feet of retail space and 291 rental apartments at the former Sweezey's property and its adjacent sites at the village’s historic Four Corners. A previous plan envisioned a 106-room hotel, but potential operators backed out when the recession hit, said Robert Loscalzo, chief operating officer of Tritec Real Estate Co.
In a new site plan presented at the meeting, the hotel has been swapped for 51 additional apartments and about 70 extra parking spaces.
Tritec bought the property from the previous owner in 2007.
The hotel plan had wide support, but Loscalzo said 25 different hotel operators, including Hilton, Marriott, W, and Windham, all shied away after the downturn.
“We’re equally as disappointed about the hotel as I believe you are,” he told the audience Wednesday.
Tritec has already completed a renovation of the 31 W. Main St. mixed-use complex. The new apartments would line Lake Street, and a planned village green would fill the space between Lake and West Main.
The green would be open to the public but there would also be amenities just for renters, including a community center, outdoor swimming pool, fitness center and post office. Tritec is also planning a below-grade parking garage with about 500 spaces.
The board will vote on the changes in the site plan at its meeting on Jan. 24. If approved, construction could begin this year, Loscalzo said.
From the start, officials from Tritec and the village seemed prepared for backlash from the community, which had largely favored the hotel proposal.
But Loscalzo said the current proposal offers a cutting-edge solution to Long Island’s housing problems. He said the target renters would be young singles and families, and empty nesters, who are running out of housing options. Some of the apartments would be rented at market value and some would be workforce housing, which offers lower rent based on income.
“We’re really excited about this project because of that,” he said. “Long Island is losing its young people because there is nowhere cool to live.”
Opinions were varied among residents and board members at the meeting. Some complained that the Patchogue community needed to attract people who were willing to invest in it and that renters were not the answer.
Village board member Stephen McGiff said he was not sure Tritec's current plan was in the public's best interest.
“The body of this project may be the same but the soul has changed,” he said.
But for some, the promise of projects like this one is what drew them to Patchogue.
Jessica McAvoy, 30, grew up in Holbrook, moved out of state for college, and when she moved back to Long Island with her husband less than 10 years ago, moved into his grandmother’s basement. Then they found Patchogue, she said, and they were sold on becoming part of what they saw as a progressive community.
“I find it insulting that people say renters are not a part of the community,” she said.
Although she and her husband bought their house in Patchogue when they were 22, she said “95 percent of my friends are also dedicated community members and they are all renters.”
Thomas Keegan, owner of the Brickhouse Brewery on West Main Street, questioned Tritec’s traffic study. He said parking in the village is already an issue and he criticized the village for changing the downtown’s zoning specifications in 2006, which is what allows such a large project to move into that spot.
“I think we’ve gone so far from where we were when we started this thing to be saying we’re ready for building permits,” he said. “We need to rethink this from the ground up.”
Village Mayor Paul Pontieri said he was disappointed there wouldn’t be a hotel, but that he supported Tritec’s new proposal because he feared for the future of the village without this kind of progressive movement.
“What I’m worried about is that if we don’t do this, in 10 years we’ll be having the same conversation,” he said.
“The night of the vote,” said village board member Joseph Keyes, “I’m going to be laying in bed with my eyes open saying, ‘Did we do the right thing?’”