Reimaging Ronkonkoma

Long Island is undergoing a housing renaissance. The not-in-my-backyard attitude that dominated for so long is slipping away and people are beginning to see the possibilities for Long Island’s future that lie beyond single- family homes. Nowhere is that more evident than in Ronkonkoma, where the Hub project is set to create a downtown where none existed before.

“At one time, Long Island was a leader in new development,” said Rob Loscalzo, the chief operating officer and developer of New Village at Patchogue and the Ronkonkoma Hub (both by Tritec, the company behind the ambitious projects). “Levittown was the first suburb in the United States. We are proud Long Islanders, but the fact is that other communities have passed us by in terms of new development. Those areas are attractive to young people and they leave Long Island. We want to change that.”

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Loscalzo said that Ronkonkoma presented a unique opportunity for the development because of its excellent location: it has access to the LIE, a robust LIRR station and is near Long Island MacArthur Airport. “Surrounded by a majority of commercial and industrial uses, we considered the potential to assemble enough critical mass to create a vibrant new community from a clean canvas,” he said.

That clean canvas is one of the defining features of the Hub. The 50 acres of land near the Ronkonkoma train station are basically a blank slate. The plan is for the Hub to create a walkable downtown and transform the area with apartments, stores and a variety of public use spaces making it a destination rather than an afterthought.

The project will be one of the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) whole neighborhood developments on Long Island, a designation issued by the United States Green Building Council. “It’s a walkable, transit-oriented, 18-hour community. It’s a socially connected community with the latest in amenities and community events that will make it a wonderful place to live and work,” Loscalzo said.

As the project moves on, the area around it will benefit too. Ronkonkoma is growing, with home sales increasing and prices rising. Yet the area remains affordable for first time buyers and investors. “Right now, the median asking price for all single family homes in the Ronkonkomas is $329,000,” said William McCartney, the broker/ manager of Coldwell Banker Real Estate in Ronkonkoma. And as the market shifts toward the sellers’ favor, McCartney said, “Buyers have fewer choices in available homes for sale and prices typically rise…We are optimistic that prices will continue to rise at a healthy rate throughout the balance of this year.” If this trend continues, Ronkonkoma is in the perfect position now for anyone looking to invest in a property that will turn a profit in a few years, whether by selling or renting.

The project is still in planning stages, although Loscalzo said they will break ground this year, possibly as soon as the summer. He expects Phase 1 to take three years to finish, but the first two apartment buildings could have residents moving in 18 months after construction begins. And that has a ripple effect. “According to the Brookings Institute, the average home price of a home within a one-mile radius of a walkable community is 30 to 300 percent greater than the same home outside that radius. We expect the same to happen in the surrounding Ronkonkoma Hub community. The development could become the gateway to eastern Long Island.”

The Hub has been a long time coming: Tritec has been working on the project for four years already. If it is built to maximum density (some of the later stages still need to be approved), they expect it will take another six to eight years. “Our area has so much to offer. The problem has been a severe shortage of supply of multifamily housing options,” said Loscalzo. He notes most high-density options on Long Island are 95 to 98 percent occupied, and many are 30 to 40 years old and often obsolete. “We feel Long Island is not only ready, it’s perhaps long overdue for a development like this.”