A window of opportunity - Long Island Business News

A window of opportunity – Long Island Business News

For a five-year plan together, time suddenly became of the essence.

That’s because the $2.8 billion public/private project called Midway Crossing, a transformative development aimed at creating a transportation-oriented hub combining life sciences, medical research, sports, entertainment, and more, while connecting MacArthur Airport to Long Island Rail Road, wants to be On top of the line when the state and federal government begin distributing infrastructure funds by the end of the year.

Led by lead developer JLL, who also served at that capacity at Hudson Yards in Manhattan, Midway Crossing needs a significant public investment, which JLL Vice President Derek Trollson says is there to capitalize on.

John Cameron / Jodie Walker photo

Trollson points to $1.3 trillion in federal infrastructure money currently funding projects nationwide and another $4 billion in funding available from the state, with $350 million recently earmarked for Long Island, which could cover project infrastructure costs and public assets. .

We believe all of this money will be earmarked by the end of the year; So, we need to order that now,” Trollson said. “We don’t want to miss the window. That’s the point.”

The ambitious proposal got a big boost earlier this month when the Long Island Regional Planning Board identified the Midway Crossing development as a project of regional significance. And that’s probably an understatement of what many have called the largest project on Long Island in a generation.

Courtesy of JLL

The project was first shown in 2017 with a 17,500-seat sports arena, and the project has evolved over the past few years. While plans still call for smaller indoor and outdoor sports venues, this is no longer the main component.

Instead, the 179-acre project features 1.4 million square feet of office space geared toward biotechnology, research, healthcare, and STEM education, a conference center with a 108,000-square-foot auditorium, a 30,000-square-foot auditorium, and 20,000 square feet. of meeting rooms, a 300-room hotel, 250,000 square feet of retail and dining space, a new 300,000 North Terminal in MacArthur to be connected to Ronkonkoma LIRR Station by a 1,800-foot driveway, and several parking structures to replace the existing 3,750. Surface parking spaces for passengers and accommodate up to 12,500 vehicles for the entire project.

Pat Lafontaine/Photo by Jodi Walker

The plan also includes a 180,000-square-foot sports and leisure center, with 5,000 seats outdoors and 4,000 to 6,500 seats indoors. The development team says it hopes to secure a professional minor league team as a primary tenant of the facility and is heading the effort NHL Hall of Famer Pat LaFontaine, as the former New York Islanders center is JLL’s advisor on the Midway Crossing Project.

Sports tourism is a $19 billion a year industry. If the NFL is $12 billion and the NHL is $5 billion, that’s greater than their sum,” Lafontaine told LIBN. “This is an opportunity to bring lacrosse, soccer, hockey, and other sports into one big complex.”

And while the project’s $2.8 billion cost will be financed mostly through private investment, the necessary infrastructure, which includes water, sewage, utilities, and roads, as well as a convention center and airport terminal, could require as much as $1 billion in the public sector. funds.

“The important thing is for people to understand that this is not a developer asking for public money for their own benefit,” said John Cameron, managing partner of Woodbury-based Cameron Engineering, an engineering firm Midway Crossing. “This is for the public asset, the public benefit, for the realization of the project but also for the community.”

Cameron said the development team has already submitted a $50 million grant application, with larger grant requests to follow soon.

“Federal money is available, the state has $4 billion to qualify for, but the governor has created a $350 million fund that we will be competing for, and if we get a large chunk, he can create an organized parking lot, he can,” Cameron said. wait. This is the year we really need to get to.”

One of the project’s goals is to increase the number of passengers using MacArthur, which currently handles only less than 1 percent of passengers using LaGuardia and JFK airports. Developers say the increase in airport business will not only be supported by Midway Crossing, but also by the $15 billion Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) improvements that boost capacity on LIRR.

“This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity on Long Island, where we already have public infrastructure funds available to realize public assets, and we have public infrastructure available, such as East Side Access, Third Track, and Second Track, to bring New York City residents and professionals to the site and have reverse commutes through rush hour,” Cameron said. “Now we’ll have a train-to-plane connection, where the busiest train station in Suffolk County can connect to a 1,800-foot walk or ferry people, right to the new North Terminal at an international airport. We didn’t have that before.”

The idea to develop the area between Ronkonkoma LIRR Station and MacArthur came from a 2017 application for county qualifications with input from the town of Islip. The Suffolk County Legislature voted in June 2018 to approve a Memorandum of Agreement to redevelop the site, which is now mostly used for passenger parking.

The county chose JLL’s initial plan over other proposals that included between 1,200 and 1,900 units of multi-family housing, office space, a hotel and conference center, and a 2 million-square-foot industrial park. Plans for additional housing were not implemented, as Tritec was already developing its plan on the north side of the Ronkonkoma LIRR station that would eventually add more than 1,400 apartments throughout the 50-acre site. JLL was also selected by the town of Islip to lead the development of the northern portion of MacArthur Airport.

Alongside efforts to secure public funding, the Midway Crossing development team, which includes a 30-member advisory board, has presented its plan to business and community groups to spread the word about the project’s benefits. The developers addressed a special meeting of the Long Island Association last week.

“Midway Crossing is an ambitious proposal that will create a new destination on Long Island and help capitalize on Long Island MacArthur Airport, enhance its connection to the LIRR terminal in Ronkonkoma, create new jobs in the region’s vibrant life sciences industry and create new sports,” said Matt Cohen, President LIA and CEO. “LIA supports this transformative project and looks forward to being a partner with the public and private sectors.”

The project was endorsed by the Suffolk Society of Supervisors, which sent a letter of support to Senator Chuck Schumer signed by city supervisors.

“This transformative project will benefit residents in all 10 of our cities, and will bring an increase in tourism, business, educational opportunities and developments in our region,” read the supervisor’s letter. “We believe that benefiting from Midway Crossing’s existing and regional assets will be an economic boon for all of Long Island and New York State.”

Developers say Midway Crossing will help Long Island retain two out of three young men who say they plan to leave in the next five years due to a lack of well-paying jobs, according to Suffolk County.

JLL says the project will create 9,300 “career path jobs,” including 4,300 jobs in STEM fields and health care. When complete construction, which will likely take more than 10 years, developers expect $4.5 billion in annual economic impact, with $2.7 billion from the project itself and another $1.8 billion from airport improvements, tourism and related jobs.

“Without significant economic development, Long Island faces a challenge. We are losing people every day in Florida, Tennessee and North Carolina, and if we don’t do something to grow the economy, it’s game over,” Cameron said. “We need a big economic development project that can have development Combined, high-paying jobs, where young people can get an education and go back to Long Island or stay on Long Island and grow their family.”

JLL says it is committed to ensuring a net carbon footprint for Midway Crossing by 2040. A partnership between the developers and Siemens will create a small grid to power most of the site and generate airport electricity from sustainable sources by 2030.

Once public funding is secured, the Midway Crossing project could begin as soon as 2024, with Trollson saying the private investment portion is already in place.

And while the estimated $1 billion in public funds required for the Ronkonkoma project may seem like a big request, observers point out that $850 million in public funding will be earmarked toward a new football stadium in Buffalo, a city of about 255,000 residents.

“Infrastructure money is there to build something important and transformative for our future,” says Lafontaine. “It’s time. It’s snowing. This is a real game-changer for all of Long Island. And this opportunity only comes once in a lifetime.”

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