Is this a case of “if you build it, they will come”? A Chicago developer, Jones Lang LaSalle, thinks so. They’ve been given eight months by the Suffolk Legislature to flesh out its proposal for a $1.1 billion arena, hotel, medical facilities, conference center and retail shops in Ronkonkoma.
Jones Lang LaSalle is actually a team made up of several entities, including a Chicago-based investment group called Ronkonkoma Vision Project, Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering, Crawford Architects and venue management company Spectra. The “team” was selected by the county and the Town of Islip in April.
The memorandum of agreement passed by a vote of 14-3 with one abstention, but if you read the reports, there is a lot of doubt if the project can come to fruition. Some lawmakers are concerned with traffic and sewage treatment facilities. Others are concerned that the arena may not attract a sports team. The New York Islanders and the National Hockey League have said they have no interest.
Supporters of the redevelopment include the Ronkonkoma Civic Association that conducted a visioning of the site with the Regional Plan Association that began in 2016. The redevelopment on the south side of the LIRR station is aimed at complementing the ongoing Ronkonkoma Hub project, where Tritec Real Estate is bringing 1,450 residential units, 195,000 square feet of retail space and 360,000 square feet of office and commercial space to about 50 acres on the north side of the train station.
A letter of support for the proposed development to the Suffolk Legislature was sent before the vote last Tuesday by Long Island Association Vice President Matthew Cohen.
“With development on the north side of the Long Island Rail Road tracks and renewed efforts to enhance the LIRR station and realize the full economic potential of the airport, the south side of the Ronkonkoma Hub could be a transformative project for the entire region…thus the LIA supports the continued study of Jones Lang LaSalle’s proposal for the south side of the LIRR tracks in order to determine what the market will support there,” Cohen wrote.
Here’s the real under-reported clincher… County officials have said that whoever wins the bidding process will have to replace 3,000 parking spots that will be lost during construction. If you’ve ever been in the area, then you know how emotional people can get about their parking spots!