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Kris
July 26th, 2004, 11:37 AM
COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

Freeport complex puts focus on transit

Alan Wax

July 19, 2004

To developer Francis Greenberger of Manhattan-based Time Equities Inc., the firm's soon-to-be-constructed Plaza West in Freeport is essentially an apartment house with a retail base.

To architects Mark Strauss and Daniel Kaplan of Manhattan-based Fox & Fowle Architects, their high-density, mixed- use complex is what they call a transit-oriented project.

And for Mayor William Glacken and his aides, the complex of apartments, offices and stores that will rise up to seven stories on 2.5 acres along Sunrise Highway, just south of the Long Island Rail Road station, is something that will transform the village's downtown.

The project easily fits various descriptions.

Plaza West will include 235 one- and two-bedroom, market-rate housing units, some of them duplexes that the architects said will have views of the Atlantic Ocean and Manhattan; a glass-enclosed, rooftop pool and health club; 23,000 square feet of retail space; underground parking; and a refurbished six-story, former Meadowbrook Bank building providing new offices. The cast-stone and stucco-covered complex also includes a new station plaza that is designed to provide a pedestrian focus for the project and surrounding area.

'Smart growth'

Plaza West "is really a good example of the very practical application of smart growth principles," Glacken said. "We think it is an appropriate use. We think that our downtown can use a bit more intense development."

Smart growth is a relatively new term used by land planners for high-density development that includes a mix of residential and commercial uses, a contrast to typical Long Island developments of single-family tract homes, shopping centers and office parks.

"We're looking at it as a really transforming piece of what we are doing to bring back the downtown," said Ellen Kelly, director of Freeport Community Development Corp.

Officials expect the complex to boost nearby businesses by bringing in new residents, workers and shoppers.

The project - and others similar to it around the country - "is about changing the perception of downtowns" from places where people just work to places where people also live, Strauss said.

The complex will create a new "streetscape" for travelers along Sunrise Highway - 5,400 cars pass the site daily, Glacken said - with its urban-style stores shielding the LIRR tracks from the busy thoroughfare and below-grade parking.

Mass-transit focus

Time Equities' Greenberger said the complex's location adjacent to the LIRR not only provides new housing, but does so "in a special niche," providing quick access to mass transit.

The apartments are expected to appeal to empty nesters and young marrieds who commute into Manhattan but want to remain close to the village's Nautical Mile waterfront. Penn Station is 40 minutes away.

All that remains before construction can begin is the completion of construction drawings - expected by September - and the issuance of a building permit soon thereafter. Construction, much of it prefabricated off site, is expected to take 18 months.

Other Long Island communities "could learn from Freeport's example," Glacken said. "It certainly makes a great deal of sense to locate projects of this nature along major transportation routes, particularly the railroad lines."

Copyright 2004, Newsday, Inc.