Plans to revitalize downtown Patchogue reached a milestone Thursday when the mixed-use New Village complex leased its first apartment.
Local officials are counting on the development, and similar new projects springing up around the old Four Corners shopping district, to rescue the struggling downtown after decades of decline. The $110-million complex features 291 apartments, 46,000 square feet of retail space and 17,000 square feet of office space.
Mayor Paul Pontieri said projects such as New Village help support local businesses and change the image of Patchogue. The village had a 50 percent vacancy rate about a decade ago; now it's less than 6 percent, he said.
"Those 291 apartments will put people on the streets" to shop at local businesses, he said. "The fact that a private developer will come into downtown Patchogue and spend $110 million sends a message . . . It says to people looking for a place to live and people looking to invest in a community that this is an up and coming community."
About a dozen people visited the New Village apartment leasing office on West Main Street Thursday, the first day potential residents could sign a lease, said property manager Dorothy Stallone.
Karen Zorzenon, a longtime Patchogue resident, was the first to put down a security deposit on one of the apartments. About 150 units are due to open in April, with the rest expected to be available by July. Monthly rents range from $1,400 for a one-bedroom apartment to $2,800 for a three-bedroom unit.
Zorzenon, 57, an empty nester who said she plans to sell her house in Patchogue, said her new home will be close to 31 W. Main St., where her grandfather once operated a tailor shop.
"I wanted to be on Main Street, and I wanted an upper floor, so I believe I'll have a view of the bay on a good day," she said. "I believe that's where I had to be."
The apartments -- some with views of Great South Bay and the steeple of Patchogue Congregational Church -- are located in a half-dozen buildings on sites formerly occupied by the defunct Swezey's department store and Carnegie Library, which was relocated.
About 67 apartments are lower-cost "workforce" housing for residents who earn about $45,000 a year or less, said Rob Loscalzo, chief operating officer of the project's developer, Tritec Real Estate of East Setauket. A lottery for that housing is expected in March, he said.
On Tuesday, Huntington Town announced that the 379-unit AvalonBay development was opening for residents after four years of controversy.
Interest in the New Village market-rate apartments exceeded expectations, Loscalzo said.
"We anticipated about 1,000 people," he said. "We've had 2,000 people, and it's growing every day."
The complex will feature a private club for residents, an outdoor pool and common areas with grills, and an amphitheater.
Zorzenon, a benefits administrator for the Central Islip School District, said the village looks better, and Long Islanders are starting to notice.
"I work in Central Islip, and everybody I talk to is talking about Patchogue," she said.
New Village at Patchogue
Monthly apartment rents: Range from $1,400 for /a one-bedroom apartment to $2,800 for three-bedroom unit
Parking spaces: More than 500, including 293 in an underground parking garage
Retail: 46,000 square feet
Office: 17,000 square feet
Project construction cost: More than $110 million
Jobs created: More than 500