IN A FEW SHORT YEARS, people on the North Shore might be heading to Syosset instead of Huntington for a night out on the town. Castagna Realty, known for Americana Manhasset, and Simon, known for—well, Simon Malls, are collaborating on a vision for a multi-use development in this central hub of Nassau County. Called Syosset Park, the 90-acre project will incorporate housing, shops, restaurants, hotels, office space and a large park to create a liveable, walkable destination. “This is a unique opportunity to create something really special that we don’t believe exists right now on Long Island,” said Chuck Davis, the senior vice president of development for Simon. “And we’re excited to be able to deliver that kind of world-class walking environment to eastern Nassau.”
Scale is what distinguishes Syosset Park from developments like Ronkonkoma Hub. At 90 acres, Syosset Park nearly doubles the size of the already ambitious Ronkonkoma project, which aims to create an entire downtown adjacent to the LIRR station where none currently exists. The size of this property, which abuts the Long Island Expressway, allows for more horizontal planning to occur.
“A lot of the smart growth that we’ve seen elsewhere tends to have a little more intensity. A little more verticality,” said John Gutleber, president and CEO of Castagna Realty. “What we’re proposing, because it’s on such a large piece, it’s going to have a village scale to it.” The plan includes taller buildings to be built along the LIE, but most of the architecture calls for one to three stories, in keeping with Town of Oyster Bay regulations.
Maintaining a high comfort level with both town officials and the community is important for the developers. They’ve held multiple town hall meetings to solicit comments and suggestions from Syosset residents. Hundreds attended, as well as reached out on Facebook and through the Syosset Park website. The public approved the sale of 54 acres of town property to the developers, much of which will be developed into a park.
Both Simon and Castagna are leveraging their considerable weight to ease concerns that residents have about the development. Simon is a national company that has run Roosevelt Field, Walt Whitman and Smithaven malls for decades. And Castagna runs multiple properties on Long Island, in addition to Americana Manhasset and Wheatley Plaza, as well as residential and mixed-use sites upstate. “People know what we’ve developed and how we keep our properties,” Gutleber said. “I think that’s a big factor with people getting comfortable.”
Though work is progressing, Syosset Park is still very much in the early stages. Davis said a plan of the development would hopefully be to the town for review at the end of this year, the work possibly starting in the summer of 2017. If that schedule holds, it means the first phase could be completed around the end of the decade. That first phase would likely include the hotels, some retail space and possibly an office building. The aspect that would take the most time, according to Davis, is the residential units: they’re planning 625 condominiums that he estimated would take five years to build and sell.
“Part of the magic of a walkable, mixed-use environment is that, if you compare it to what else you’d do on this site—a plaza-sized development that could sit there or a 1.5-million-square-foot industrial park or a large mall—what we’re talking about is a little bit of everything,” Davis said. “We think we’d like to create something that’s like the nice middle ground for all of the homes around there.”