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Praise for Huntington Station revitalization plan

Ryan Porter, VP of Planning and Development for

Ryan Porter, VP of Planning and Development for Renaissance Downtowns, takes an opportunity to hear the opinions and concerns of Huntington residents. (May 7, 2013) Credit: Daniel Brennan

Residents, for decades promised a revitalized Huntington Station, came to a presentation Tuesday night on the latest plan to transform the area into a destination point with shops, a restaurant and live entertainment -- and liked what they heard.

Armed with questions on parking, empty stores, property values and the timeline for the plan, about 50 residents came to Town Hall to attend a presentation on the Huntington Station Development Strategy.

It was given by Renaissance Downtowns, the master developer selected by the town to revamp the area.

"I wanted to hear what they had to say and offer some ideas of my own," Tom D'Ambrosio said. "I like what I heard."

"Just imagine what this could be," Huntington Station resident Kimberly Hawkins said. "It's going to be an energetic, vibrant downtown that will boost up the area's economy."

The driving force in developing the strategy is the Plainview-based master developer's Source the Station website, which asks its 800 members to propose and vote on suggestions to revitalize the neighborhood.

After a nearly yearlong campaign, voters said their favorite retail ideas include a book shop, cafe and performance space; a Long Island Rail Road station retail cluster; a fresh fruit and vegetable stand, and a restaurant row.

"We are taking a very collaborative approach," said Ryan Porter, vice president for planning and development for Renaissance Downtowns. "This is an ongoing iterative process with the residents, the town and other stakeholders."

At times the meeting, which included a question-and-answer session, took on the tone of a rally with several members clad in T-shirts emblazoned with "Source the Station" extolling the virtues of the plan.

Susan Arthur, who is not a Source the Station member, said she is encouraged by the plan, but wondered: "What happens after the development is done. What is the long term plan?"

Porter acknowledged that among some business owners and residents there is a sense of mistrust of government and developers in general, and that residents have been promised revitalization for so long that not all are convinced that this latest idea will work. But he said he and his team will work to make them believers.

Huntington resident Andrew Scanlon said he likes this plan, but that the past failed ones are not forgotten.

"But Renaissance is the most open-minded as far as listening to everyone's concerns, pro and con, and trying to come up with an idea and taking it slow," he said. "That is the way to go. It sounds like they are going to listen to our concerns, which is key."

At an earlier presentation that day at the town board meeting, about 15 residents also expressed their support.

Town Supervisor Frank Petrone said he is impressed with Renaissance and its process of engaging the community and the product that effort produced. "But more important than the product, is the comments from people in the community," he said. "Many that you have never seen before, they are not the regulars or the soapbox stars."

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