Ronkonkoma Vision Project Only Beginning to Take Shape

From parking spots for commuters to bustling sports and convention space, the Ronkonkoma Vision project’s grand plans are only beginning to mature in the 86-acre property between MacArthur Airport and the Long Island railroad station. 

 

The $1.1 billion project promises a huge boost in both temporary construction jobs and permanent positions as the complex is completed, with the planning stages in motion since at least 2013. Locals hope that the project brings a boost in tourism, sporting events, and more to this corner of the metropolitan area. However, with no projected completion date in sight as of July 2019, what does it spell out for the more immediate future? 

What Amenities Does the Ronkonkoma Vision Project Hope to Bring?

With the draw of local and visiting athletic teams, business sponsorships, and more, all at the center of that crucial commute between plane and train, the finished Ronkonkoma project began with more extensive plans than those that were ultimately finalized. 

 

The proposed sports stadium, the crown jewel of the complex, once promised a mindblowing 17,500-seat capacity. Developers have reduced this number by half and are looking to attract a minor-league hockey team to make their home there. But what else is coming?

 

  • The main arena. The 7,500-seat arena hopes to host multiple entertainment events like concerts as well as hockey and lacrosse. 
  • The outdoor stadium. At a smaller 6,000-seats, this venue will be home to soccer and lacrosse events.
  • Three public practice fields. Not playing for a league? No problem. For professionals, semi-professionals and amateurs alike, the Ronkonkoma complex invites anyone to come to play and practice. 
  • Hotel space. A 300-key convention hotel will sit on the complex to house visiting teams, tourists, and any other event attendees.
  • Convention center. With more than just sports to offer the brave and the curious, the convention center can host virtually any manner of event that area is not built for. 
  • Retail Spaces. With commuters, out-of-state visitors, and locals to attract, shopping space is not only necessary; it’s practically mandatory. 
  • Class A Office Space. With a preference to medical and research institutions, these will be centrally located with easy access, in a spacious and quality infrastructure. 

What Does This Mean for Construction Jobs?

Once ground is broken, the breadth and scope of this project gives an “all hands on deck” sort of feel. Virtually every manner of construction, engineering, and landscaping will be needed to finish the Ronkonkoma Vision project. Short of permanent residential areas and a second airport, almost every kind of urban establishment imaginable is going into the blueprint. Following a trend in New York construction of late, many of the spaces outlined will have multifunctional vertical spaces, with different establishments on multiple floors. Tenants in the upper part of the convention center hotel can take a short elevator ride to their event or shopping down on the ground floor, for instance. Developers and tradespeople can look for a number of upcoming projects to include: 

 

  • Class A office structures. Because these buildings will command high rent from quality occupants, they will be expected to come together using the highest quality materials and building conventions, assembled and made whole by masters in their craft. 
  • Multiple, diverse entertainment venues. The main arena itself will need to hold the population of a small town, at its feet, cheering for their team, but steel beams are just the start, and the complex will be home to fields of green, ice, and more. 
  • Modern, comfortable hotel space. Beyond even just the rooms, amenities and facilities will need to be accessible and welcoming to the widest possible customer base. 

 

All of these and more will each have their own unique challenges. The demands of a functional office, arena, and hotel rooms can be as different from each other as night and day. These all call for not just structure, but electrical, plumbing, landscaping, and roads and walkways to navigate them.

 

A Wealth of Development Opportunities Arise if Philadelphia’s Hahnemann Hospital Closes

Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia has filed for bankruptcy and faces possible closure. If the medical campus closes, there are obvious concerns about serving the community’s health needs, as well as the loss of jobs of those who work there. But according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the seven medical buildings and parking garage that take up over nearly six acres on Broad Street along the Vine Street Expressway could become one of the “most enticing-if challenging” development sites the city has seen in years.

The age and condition of the buildings make it difficult to modernize to continue its use as a hospital. But the site sits between Center City and Broad Street making it a “gateway” location for redevelopment should that inevitably happen. At this point, there is no consensus of what kind of development it would be or if it would encompass the entire site or pieces of it.

Should redevelopment happen, it won’t be the first hospital site in the city to be redeveloped and re-imagined. The former Mt. Sinai Hospital at 400 Reed Street was turned into nearly 100 luxury townhomes with “pocket parks” and pedestrian walkways configured into the buildings’ layout. Southwark on Reed became the fastest selling townhome project in Philadelphia to date. And St. Joseph’s Hospital’s transformation into a mixed-use site with 88 apartments, The Civic Apartments, is nearing completion.

But Hahnemann’s future at this point is unknown. The president of the Center City District Business Association, Paul Levy, told the Inquirer that while his group hopes to keep the services and employment from the hospital if it closes, but there would be a huge, new opportunity for the city.

“The top priority is to preserve the medical services and jobs the hospital represents,” Levy said. “If, unfortunately, it was impossible to save them…it could create a whole new zone in the city.”

RELATED STORIES:

Bernie Sanders Holds a Rally Against Hospital Closure, abc Action News Philadelphia.

 

Room for Moving Up: Times Square’s Palace Theatre to Receive a Facelift, Other Developments

The trend in urban revitalization through multi-functional spaces continues its spread in New York City, where significant updates to popular venues in Times Square continue to unfold. Where locals continue to agree that a downtown area must leave ample options for living, working, shopping, and playing within a few steps of each other, it is clear that the beloved bowtie of NYC proper is more than happy to take the lead with the ever-advancing TSX Broadway development. 

TSXB promises to be an “experiential” shopping, entertainment, and residential experience, offering 46 floors of modern amenities, prime advertising and retail space, and the protection and preservation of a historic landmark. It includes the area in and around the famous Palace Theatre, which shut its doors in late 2018 to begin a long renovation process. 

What Changes Are Coming to the Palace Theatre?

A venue that has been home to the Vaudeville greats, high-profile film premieres like RKO’s Citizen Kane, and numerous Broadway stage productions, the 1700-seat Palace Theatre closed its 2018 season with the promise to return in the early 2020’s. Its redevelopment is part of a larger project affecting the whole area, but its most surprising change will be its location: 30 feet above its present spot, part of a $2.4 billion project approved by NYC City Council June of last year. Here, there are multiple aims:

  • New Space. The elevation of the theatre will create around 10,000 square feet of retail space for street-level customers. This likely will include the need for multiple separate units for a diverse shopping experience, mechanical space, bathroom facilities, and more.
  • A Landmark, Preserved. Developers L&L Holding Co., Maefield Development, and Fortress Investment Group are dedicated not only to bringing the area into the electrical future, but also meticulously restoring and preserving every detail of this popular location. Workers with expertise in preservation and restoration may have a monumental project on their hands, with everything from facades, statuary, seating, and detailing needing to look their authentic best. 

What Other Changes Are Coming with the Redevelopment? 

Aside from treating a grand old lady like the Palace Theatre like the queen she is, TSX Broadway promises several new additions to Times Square to keep locals and tourists close and comfortable. All of these changes will call for a variety of construction types and trades to complete. 

  • A Memorable Trip. Popular among NYC retailers is the offering of an “experience” rather than a mere shopping trip, and TSX Broadway is embracing this in all its spaces. With other popular stores offering meditation sessions to draw shoppers, or displays to attract Instagram influencers, the entire TSX complex hopes to play off of a similar vibe. Developers are challenged to create a structure that facilitates this that includes edgy, unique modern architecture that can blend seamlessly with the Palace Theatre’s classical charm. 
  • Out with the Old. Among other changes, this requires the demolition of the Doubletree hotel that currently sits atop the Palace Theatre, in itself an enormous project, especially since everything under the Doubletree must remain intact. The removal and further updates to the property will pave the way for the building of new, 669-room luxury hotel with every amenity (an update from Doubletree’s 612-room offering).
  • Outdoor Entertainment. TSX Broadway’s completion will come with the installation of Times Square’s only permanent outdoor stage, adding a new, established venue for year-round entertainment. It will call for a structure fit to hold a sizeable partying crowd and fixtures for state-of-the-art equipment. 
  • The Most Valuable Signage. When it comes to drawing tourists, locals, and influencers of every stripe, for once—it’s all about what’s on the outside. Times Square’s billboards and screens are an integral part of its character, with recent updates from neon to LED and video dominating your view as you look up from the street. TSX Broadway will be no different, refitting its outdoor space with an 18,000 square-foot wrap-around sign with video and streaming capabilities. With video advertising space in Times Square bringing in as much as $12 million a year on much smaller screens and with the TSX project’s signage breaking records for the area, the construction of such a giant will be a massive undertaking in itself. 

With a mixture of modern amenities and the charm of New York’s colorful entertainment history, perfectly preserved, the TSX Broadway development may change the landscape. For now, with opening day still a couple of years away at least, the mountain of jobs it leaves for passionate developers and tradespeople are innumerable.

Mixed-Use, Transit-Oriented Project Key in Paterson’s Plan for Renewal

Paterson officials are once again talking about a renaissance. The key piece to this attempt at making Silk City more attractive to young adults and businesses is a proposed $34 million mixed-use building across from the Paterson train station.

When announcing the plans, mayor Andre Sayegh said the city is looking to attract millennials and become a hub for young professionals the way other area cities have done. There is Hoboken, of course, and Jersey City. Harrison has exploded with residential and retail construction built in the areas surrounding the PATH station—and part of the development was a new PATH station that was recently opened as well.

“Paterson, we believe, is the next frontier,” Sayegh said as he unveiled the plans for the “transit-oriented” project that will include 160 multi-family apartments— running from approximately 400 to 850 square feet each, as well as a food hall, co-working space, retail businesses, 15,000 square feet for a business incubator program for the fashion and garment industry. It has a targeted date for completion at the end of 2022.

Developer Anthony LoConte will handle the project at the Ward St. and Memorial Drive site where an old parking garage now sits.

The project will create more than 60 construction jobs and the retail space will create 15 full-time jobs when the project is completed, according to the Paterson Times. LoConte hopes to break ground in the next eight months and plans to be involved in more projects around the city, the story said.

Making Every Floor Count: City of New York Closes Mechanical Void Loophole

After approval by the city council on May 29, 2019, an amendment that stands to noticeably affect the New York City skyline, has been ratified. It comes in the form of an attempt to close a unique loophole in zoning laws that creates taller residential buildings with far less available living space. The Residential Tower Mechanical Voids Text Amendment imposes new regulations on the use of excessive mechanical voids in building construction.

What, Exactly, Are Mechanical Voids, and What Is the Problem? 

Before this amendment, mechanical voids of any kind did not count in the square footage of usable space in a zoning permit. The reason for this is that these voids usually make up floors for storing mechanical equipment for the building and mechanical bulkheads in the tops of some high-rise structures. In a residential space, these entire floors are not habitable and therefore do not count toward the square footage, hence the name “void.” The projected height of a building generally should not be largely different from the finished product. 

This is where the issue of excessive mechanical voids comes into play and what the amendment hopes to do away with in future projects, involving not only the size of singular voids but also how multiple close voids can be in relation to each other. The amendment seeks to address issues such as:

  • Too-tall buildings. With uninhabitable spaces in a high-rise building reaching and exceeding the equivalent of multiple habitable floors, the final structure is far higher than zoning would have otherwise allowed. This poses environmental changes to other parts of the city, such as longer shadows cast on parts of Central Park, as suggested by activists supporting stronger regulations. 
  • Inflated cost of living. These taller buildings in highly demanded corners of the city use these voids to reduce the amount of livable space on lower floors, meaning the available residences are higher up and ultimately cost more. As the discussion around affordable housing in the city of New York continues to rage, the closing of this loophole has become a necessary part of the discussion

Is The New Legislation Enough? What Are Critics Saying? 

While some hail this decision as an essential first step, others say the amendment is not enough. In some cases, this has already led to some slight alterations. For instance, the City of New York website notes that criticism did lead to some changes before the amendment’s final passage. Initially, the minimum allowable height of a mechanical void that would not be counted among usable space in zoning was 25 feet in height, raised to 30 feet to allow a more reasonable amount of space for mechanical equipment. By and large, criticisms come from both sides of the debate: 

  • Not strict enough, say some critics. Gale Brewer, President of the Manhattan Borough, believes the required distance between voids (before they are counted as zoned space) should be increased from 75 feet to 90 feet. City Councilman Ben Kallos suggested that the allowable size of unzoned space for individual voids should cap at 14 feet rather than 30 feet. 
  • Space is needed for growing energy trends. At a time when New York has committed itself to increasing energy efficiency and reducing its carbon footprint, lobbying groups like the Real Estate Board of New York insist that these limitations further limit developers’ ability to incorporate evolving technologies for lowering energy costs. Mechanical equipment, including ventilation systems and batteries, require space. The latter, especially, are growing larger all the time. 

As the debate continues and further restrictions are proposed at the state and local level, the discussion will only continue to evolve just as the city skyline does. For now, whether it reaches unforeseen heights or becomes more down-to-earth discourse remains to be seen. 

New Jersey’s Biggest, Boldest Mixed-Use Project: Riverton Redevelopment in Sayreville

Riverton, mixed-use redevelopment along two miles of the Raritan River in Sayreville, is one of New Jersey boldest projects. It’s also one of the biggest. The $2.5 billion project on 418 acres is the largest mixed-use development in NJ history and believed to be the largest mixed-use project in development in the U.S. right now, according to NJ.com.

Don’t blame locals if they adopt a “I’ll believe it when I see it” attitude to the dreams of creating “America’s Next Great Hometown.” Attempts to redevelop the area have been ongoing for more than a decade. The previous developer never began construction after attempts to clean-up the contaminated site.

The current plan calls for a marina, two hotels, 1 million square feet of retail space and 1 million square feet of office space, 10 restaurants, and 2,000 residential units of single-family homes and apartments. It is expected to be built in phases and take 10 years to complete once they start construction.

But it won’t be easy—to build or win over the public. The developer, North American Properties (NAP), and Sayreville Economic & Redevelopment Agency (SERA) have faced some pushback, including a poll sent to area residents at the end of 2018 that town officials say was from an outside organization trying to mislead the public about the project with questions that “appear created to incite fear and spread rumor.” And while NAP boasts access to highways and the number of people within 20 miles, some are concerned about the amount of traffic and congestion in the area. Part of the plan, however, is to create its own Riverton exit on the Garden State Parkway, according to a story from News12 New Jersey, which toured the site.

If all goes as the developers plan, Riverton residents won’t have to leave the area very often. They can work, live, dine out, and meet all of their entertainment and recreation needs right there.

Rikers Island’s Closure and What Comes After

Established in 1932, the sprawling facilities at Rikers Island span over 400 acres of land between Queens and the Bronx, averaging a daily population of 10,000 inmates. The average annual cost to New York City taxpayers to house one person there for a year is over $200,000. Its reputation includes a litany of abuse allegations and sits at the center of many heated debates across the state of New York regarding the faults of the prison industrial complex.

In June of 2017, Mayor Bill De Blasio announced the intention to close the sprawling prison complex within the next ten years, once its inmate population is reduced to a manageable 5,000, but what comes after? For the island itself, there are no apparent discussions regarding what the empty space will become, but the countdown still has another eight years if other circumstances do not force the prison’s closure at an earlier date. Developers and lawmakers alike may speculate until then. As for what replaces Rikers Island’s operations, De Blasio’s plan keeps the matter small but local.

What Is Replacing Rikers Island, and What Does This Mean for Many NYC Boroughs?

The current intention, once Rikers Island closes its doors, is to turn its hundreds of acres of penal sprawl into smaller, separate facilities in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. As of June 2019, we know that these new facilities will serve as “civic assets.” The City of New York wants each borough to benefit from the building and running of these new jails, and it hopes to accomplish this through multiple intended features and plans:

  • Borough-based jails would keep detainees close to home. This gives them easier access to support systems by reducing commute time and cost for lawyers, family, advocates, and more.  
  • The jails are intended to integrate with the local architecture and community. For example, the plans for the Brooklyn location would house inmates and staff, as well as space for programming and recreation on the upper floors, with the ground floor open for local businesses and commerce. Therefore, space remains for local communities to continue to benefit from the location.
  • These facilities are smaller and easier to manage. Rikers will close when the population is reduced to a max of 5,000 inmates, and these will be divided among four locations. Smaller populations require fewer staff and facilities to run, especially measured against Rikers’ current, gargantuan staff that currently rivals the number of inmates in number. 

Another key trait to each of these jails will be that the city wishes for each design to benefit their location specifically. A jail for Brooklyn will provide what the community there most calls for: a layout that serves the needs of inmates and civilians alike, but the Manhattan location may take a completely different form. Today, New York City looks to determine more definitively what each borough needs through local construction firms and other community experts. 

Want to Be Part of the Solution? NYC Issues an RFI.

The City of New York has released a request for information, or RFI. They want to engage with local industry experts, especially construction companies, in determining the needs of each community, and they need input from the people who know them and have had a hand in building them. Their goal is to be the “owner of choice for design-build firms,” they say, and they are looking for those that have experience in developing and handling these larger, more complex projects. 

From firms like yours, they want to hear what will bring these plans to fruition efficiently, on time, and on budget, without sacrificing safety or quality. 

Firms and individual parties that would like to answer the RFI, or would like more information on the individual projects, please call CIS 800-247-1727 or email us at info@cisleads.com.

 

North Haledon Hopes to Jump-Start Development with Residential Units

The mayor of North Haledon is praising newly approved housing projects that will go up in his town as a deal that will jump-start development to turn a “blighted” industrial area into a residential neighborhood that will spur more construction in the area, according to an article on northjersey.com.

The multiple Belmont Avenue projects will bring more than 200 apartments–with some affordable housing units among them–and at least 30 townhouses into the area near the completed Belmont Estates townhouses, the story said.

As part of a way to bring in developers, the town is working on a payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement that would allow the developers to make payments to the town based on a percentage of revenue instead of paying taxes.

The North Haledon mayor called it a good deal saying the town would make a “tremendous amount of money.”

If the developers and building owners paid taxes instead, that tax revenue would have gone to the school district, according to the story.

Gov. Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative Helps Long Island Residents

For the fourth year in a row, communities all over the state of New York have been submitting applications for grants through a program helmed by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, aimed at updating and improving downtown areas to boost local economies. While sources report that applications are down from the previous year (dropping to 94 from 105), among those applicants are 17 downtown areas on Long Island, down from a record 23 applications the year before. That’s 30 communities so far that have benefitted from a much-needed economic boost, with another 10 soon to join them, with promising projects for those in the construction business to follow.

What Is the Downtown Revitalization Initiative?

Cuomo unveiled the DRI in 2016, proposing a program that would stimulate downtown areas across the state. Its aim would ultimately be to invest in grants (this year, $100 million) that are split between each of New York’s ten regions. This year, the total in grants to be offered is $100 million, adding up to $10 million per recommended application. Recommendations will come down from each of the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils (REDCs). This year, the due date for final recommendation is July 12.

 

All 10 of New York’s REDCs have nominated their applicants based on several factors that determine the downtown area’s “potential for transformation” including:

 

  • How compact the downtown area is;
  • Potential for future job growth;
  • Location with regard to housing areas; and
  • Their proposed strategy for development.

What Does Downtown Revitalization Mean for Jobs?

Part of Gov. Cuomo’s aim in the initiative is to reawaken urban centers that need it. It means taking disused, historic buildings and repurposing them for both residential and commercial use—even a mix of the two, in some cases. It’s about turning these places into bustling city centers where people want to live, work, and entertain themselves. Depending upon the community, this could call for:

 

  • Updating pavement, walking areas, and green spaces;
  • Updating roads to improve the flow of traffic; and
  • Renovating existing structures for active use by businesses and residents.

 

The possibility of building wholly new structures might not be in the cards. However, in a community chosen for one of these grants, every job that a tradesperson could fill may be called for—in the next year. These projects are ongoing; for instance, Downtown Central Islip, the LI recipient of a 2018 DRI grant, only held their final community workshop on their plan of action back in March.

What Are Communities Doing with Their Grants?

Each community that seeks a nomination must include in their application what they plan to do with the grant. In this way, we can see where that money goes and what potential projects this could create in their proposals and what recipients have done since the DRI’s inception in 2016. For example:

 

  • The village of Westbury was the first Long Island community to receive the grant. Among their proposed projects included transit-oriented, rezoning near the LIRR Station, improving and updating their recreation center, updates to their roadways and pedestrian areas, and installing a permanent space for arts and events.
  • New Rochelle, Westchester County recipient in round three, included plans to create accessible improvements on existing park spaces, bolster mixed-income residential areas to provide housing at multiple levels of affordability, and develop more mixed-use spaces to seamlessly blend residential, commercial, and community spaces for easy access.
  • Rockville Centre, one of this year’s applicants, is proposing the installation of a new bike path (including lockers for storing bikes and gear), new green spaces, a teen recreation center, and needed updates and improvements on local infrastructure.

 

Statewide grants help improve the quality of life for its residents. From infrastructure improvements to more streetlights, the small changes to each part of the state help. Receiving a grant helps offset the costs for the community as well, and enables construction companies to help more communities improve.

South Jersey Sees Big Things For the Future

At last week’s Southern New Jersey Development Council Construction (SNJDC) Forecast, council president Marlene Asselta said she is hopeful about economic development for the area in the near future, according to NJTV News. She called South Jersey an “awakening giant.”

At the event, the redevelopment of the former Echelon Mall in Voorhees Township was discussed, and a call was put out to engineers, planners, and developers for what the township hopes will become an entertainment destination. The first floor of the former mall could even become a culinary arts center.

But Voorhees wasn’t the only place with big plans.

In Burlington, there is talk of a mixed-use development project around the Delaware River. It would have retail, restaurants, a hotel, and maybe a water park on the property of the old McNeal Mansion and U.S. Pipe in Burlington City.

When it comes to stimulation spending, libraries in the area could get in on the coming building boon too. Thanks to the Libraries Construction Bond Act, money could go for new construction or renovations, according to the state librarian.

While all of New Jersey is hoping for construction that brings new choices for retail and entertainment across the state, the SNJDC believes South Jersey will be the Garden State’s place to develop and build in the next few years.