August 2, 2010

One of Three NYS “Spotlight Communities” Demonstrating How Existing State Programs Can Support and Complement Local Efforts to Develop Brownfields and Achieve Smart Growth Initiatives

 (Suffolk County), NY:  Long Island, New York: the name conjures images of leafy commuter suburbs – communities first shaped by the path of commuter rail, then re-shaped by the paths of highways as public policies favoring the automobile overtook rail as the dominant mode of transportation.  Rail-oriented development, concentrated around stations, gave way to the sprawl of development served by highways.  Wyandanch, a rail-centered hamlet in the Town of Babylon, faded.  Vacant, underutilized land, obsolete improvements and brownfields give testimony to better days.

But not tomorrow. That’s because the Town of Babylon intends to leverage Wyandanch’s main asset, a train station on the Long Island Railroad line, and breathe new life into this south shore community. Town officials are planning a multi-phase, 134-acre project – a transit-oriented development – guided by the principles of “smart growth” and aided by a diverse financing plan. The Town’s efforts were recognized by the State of New York, which designated Wyandanch as one of three “spotlight communities,” an initiative designed to demonstrate how existing state programs can support and complement local efforts to redevelop brownfields and achieve neighborhood revitalization and smart growth.

NDC’s field director Kevin Gremse, a Long Island native, has provided the Town of Babylon, an NDC client community, with planning and financing expertise that is helping to guide the complex project.

NDC’s financial modeling determined that a full range of economic development financial programs will be needed to cover the development costs of the first phase of a plan that has been created by Torti Gallas, an urban design and architectural firm widely experienced with large-scale mixed-use developments. Among the possible public financing tools that will potentially be used on the development are: New Markets Tax Credits (NMTCs),  Recovery Zone Facility Bonds; HUD Section 108 loan guarantee; Brownfields Economic Development Initiative; Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC); HOME; and various State of New York  subsidies.

The first phase of this project is a $61 million, mixed-use development with 150 mixed-income housing units and 40,000 square feet of retail, and a community health center. A triangular “village green” will become a focal point and public gathering place.

NDC’s role for the balance of the first phase redevelopment will be to evaluate the financial feasibility of the development plans, select the most experienced and capable development team, and determine the most appropriate development tools to be used as part of a complex financial structure. NDC will also assist with the solicitation and selection of the development team for the targeted development site and assist in negotiating the terms of the Land Disposition Agreement(s) for land made available to the development by the Town. For the community health center, the Town of Babylon has requested that NDC’s Housing and Economic Development Corporation (HEDC) develop the 34,000 s.f., $13 million facility, using its public-private financing and development model.

NDC field director Gremse says: “NDC is very pleased to be working with the Town of Babylon and the Wyandanch community because it has the essential ingredients for redevelopment success: motivated political leadership under the direction of Supervisor Steve Bellone, pledged public infrastructure investment, coordinated and strategic state support, and community-based smart planning under a nationally renowned planning and design team.”

The development plan will be completed in the fall and the Town expects to issue requests for proposals shortly thereafter.