Ronkonkoma: The birth of a New Thriving Downtown in Long Island’s Burbs
If you ask 10 people to describe Long Island, you’ll get 20 different answers. At its core, Long Island is a typical suburb. It’s full of single-family homes, front lawns, grocery stores and post offices. It’s a community of commuters who fight rush hour traffic to get to their New York City offices, or use their commutes to read, study or sleep on the Long Island Railroad. It’s beaches are famous, it’s cost of living is high, and it’s schools are top notch.
Long Island is part suburban paradise, and part millennial nightmare. It’s both perfect and perfectly stuck in the past.
Over the past decade, Long Island decision-makers have recognized the need to do more to modernize Long Island neighborhoods and incentivize young and diverse talent and growing families to stick around. The millennial and Gen Z cohorts are less interested in long commutes, landscaping their backyards, and fluctuating gas prices. They prefer a more urban lifestyle with walkable downtowns, access to mass transportation, and apartment-style living that empowers them to be flexible. Diversity is more and more important, as is the ability to build community in an increasingly disconnected age.
To meet that need, we’ve seen a gradual but critical shift in the way Long Island handles economic development. Massive investments in our infrastructure have pushed through projects like the third track and double track, both of which increase capacity and efficiency of the LIRR. East-side access is slated to open in 2022, giving Long Islanders direct access to the East Side of Manhattan, enabling some to shorten their commute by over 40 minutes each way. There have also been local and regional initiatives to revitalize and build new downtowns, and success stories like Patchogue and Bay Shore are shining examples of what’s possible when we dare to embrace change.
Ronkonkoma’s Station Square is the next chapter in the story of Long Island. The project, as a whole, is expected to invest more than $750 million into the community, generate over 10,000 construction jobs, and create over 2,500 new permanent jobs. It will transform a previously blighted 53-acre property into a major transit-oriented, mixed-use development with 1,450 apartments, and over 600,000 square feet of commercial space with proximity to Long Island MacArthur Airport and the Long Island Expressway. This community is made truly walkable by its direct access to the Ronkonkoma Long Island Railroad Train Station, one of the busiest stations in the system.
In addition to the obvious benefits of new office space, new shops and foot traffic, Station Square will go a long way to solving for the increasing need for a more diverse housing stock on Long Island. Aside from young people, apartments are also appealing to the baby boomer generation as they look to downsize but stay near to their communities. Apartments, like the 1,450 being built in Ronkonkoma, are also a critical way to integrate suburban neighborhoods that were once built on unfair housing principals. They can help create a more fair, diverse and prosperous Long Island.
Station Square will also include a new sewage treatment plant with capacity for additional Suffolk County communities to hook up and it will be one of the few LEED ND certified developments on Long Island, showing a consciousness around climate change and the environmental concerns of today’s decision makers. Together, these features will create a brand new “Front Door” to the region, a new connectivity point that appeals to residents, business owners and visitors alike.
Phase 1, called Alston, comprised of 489 luxury apartments, is complete and 94% leased. As Station Square moves forward, with Phase 2 breaking ground earlier this month, Long Island is in agreement: Ronkonkoma’s rebirth as a thriving urban center will not only serve the region as a focal point of modernity, connectivity and prosperity – but it will generate the type of diverse and youthful energy that Long Islanders have been yearning for.