Brookhaven Town officials plan to hold a public hearing this week on the final version of the Ronkonkoma Hub plan, designed to transform a neighborhood near the hamlet's LIRR station into a gateway to Long Island tourist attractions.
The plan -- the price tag of which has grown in the past year from $350 million to $475 million due to design changes -- calls for a 50-acre, village-style community with offices, restaurants, entertainment venues and up to 1,450 housing units. The hearing is scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday at Town Hall in Farmingville.
Officials for the town and Tritec Real Estate, the private firm hired as the project's master planner, envision it as a neighborhood that offers low-cost housing, trendy shops and eateries, and transportation links to beaches and the Hamptons.
"We're trying to build a cool place to live that's walkable and that's exciting," said Rob Loscalzo, chief operating officer of East Setauket-based Tritec. "When you step off the train, we want to make it a sense that you've arrived."
Loscalzo said he hopes to break ground later this year. He said the company has contracts to purchase four parcels, or close to 12 acres, and is negotiating to buy the remaining land.
Construction is expected to take five to 10 years after the town issues building permits. It is unclear when the town will complete the approval process.
The area around one of the Long Island Rail Road's busiest terminals -- close to Long Island MacArthur Airport -- includes small businesses such as a taxicab company, bars, coffee shops and a barbershop.
Project supporters, such as Lake Ronkonkoma Civic Association president George Schramm, said it could boost a struggling neighborhood. "It would certainly revitalize that area, certainly bring in some of the housing options that this area currently doesn't have," Schramm said.
Thursday's hearing is expected to focus on five issues, including the proposed land-use plan, an environmental-impact statement, and the creation of a zoning overlay district that would allow for creation of a mixed-use development with residential, commercial and industrial buildings, chief town planner Tullio Bertoli said. He described the Hub project as "the single largest redevelopment in the Town of Brookhaven."
Schramm, noting that Ronkonkoma in the early 20th century had attracted wealthy Manhattanites and other travelers, said the Hub could restore the community's reputation as a vacation destination.
"We need people to invest in the downtown community," Schramm said. "We see an opportunity here that Ronkonkoma can rise again."