A United Artists UA movie theater sign is torn down...

A United Artists UA movie theater sign is torn down to make room for the Wincoram Commons, a new, mixed-use development with 176 workforce rental homes and 13,300 square feet of commercial space located in Coram on May 1, 2014. Credit: Heather Walsh

Rochester-based Conifer Realty and the nonprofit Community Development Corporation of Long Island broke ground Thursday on a $53 million pedestrian-friendly housing and commercial complex in Coram.

Wincoram Commons, which will sit on the site of a dilapidated United Artists movie theater, will offer 176 affordable rental housing units, mixed retail and 13,300 square feet of commercial space. State and Brookhaven Town officials, speaking at a Coram news conference, said the development will help address a void in the region.

"This redevelopment project will transform a symbol of blight into a new engine for economic development and affordable housing," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who did not attend the news conference, said in a statement.

Cuomo said the project is expected to inject nearly $56 million into the local economy and create 145 construction jobs and more than 30 permanent jobs.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called the project an example of the public and private sectors working together to promote economic growth.

The oft-vandalized 17.65-acre movie site at Route 112 and Middle Country Road has been vacant for more than a decade. The development project is part of a land-use strategy to support growth in the community while eliminating an eyesore.

Suffolk County police have responded to more than 150 calls at the site since 1996, mostly for disturbances and trespassing, officials said. A fire caused the roof of the building to collapse in 2007, and town officials issued several building code violations to a previous owner, including having an unsecured vacant building.

"This is tremendous. It's the type of program we want to move forward with," said Brookhaven Town Councilwoman Connie Kepert, who represents the district.

Officials with Conifer Realty and the Community Development Corporation of Long Island say the project's first phase will be paid through a mix of state, county and nonprofit funding.

The project was endorsed by the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council, which, in turn, spurred New York State's Homes and Community Renewal agency to approve $2.1 million in funding for the development. Officials said that funding is expected to leverage nearly $20 million in private equity for the project.

In addition, Suffolk County has allocated $1.5 million from a housing program, and The Empire State Development Corp. has awarded $1 million to the project.

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