Driving Forces of Long Island Development

Long Island Post, February 26th, 2018 | The unincorporated hamlet of Riverside, nestled between the towns of Riverhead and Southampton, doesn’t easily relate to the glitzy veneer of the Hamptons. Over the years, the hamlet has seen its share of hard times but Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns believes the area is a diamond in the rough.

Sean McLean and Ryan Porter serve as co-CEO of Renaissance Downtowns and are passionate about the company’s philosophy to create “thriving and successful communities.” The attitude permeates during any real estate-related conversation with McLean, who speaks about development matters with a sense of urgency. The company’s dedication to Riverside isn’t surprising. Renaissance Downtowns has bet its future on the power of such development-driven revitalization, proposing major projects in Huntington Station, the Village of Hempstead and pockets of Glen Cove.

McLean believes developmental efforts on Long Island should have a higher calling. “Regardless of being known for downtown redevelopment or going into places that have issues that we need to work with the community to fix, our core values are set in creating a better place than exists today.”

To effectuate their brand of change, Renaissance seeks out municipalities that are ready to embrace it. “The number one driving force is that we have a real partner in both the municipality and the community that wants change. We don’t go into these communities knowing what that change is exactly.” Renaissance opens local offices and goes through the planning process to determine how to best build and invest depending on the area. Once a community understands growth and wastewater treatment, they are more willing to support the plans. In Riverside, where the developer is looking to build 2,267 housing units, including a combination of affordable housing and market-rate apartments alongside professional, office and retail spaces, McLean said the residents and officials are onboard with what they’re trying to accomplish.

Even with policymakers’ support McLean pushes the boundaries of local involvement. “We have to be willing to push government to places where they’re uncomfortable. Often, elected officials and staff don’t want the community involved as much as we like to involve them, we do try…so the community sees their ownership in the development process.”

Long Island’s future housing needs are critical in the shaping of how Renaissance does business. “We have to push local government to face the technical challenges we face as a region,” McLean said, painting a grim picture for both Nassau and Suffolk Counties if the status quo isn’t shifted. “If left unabated, even with the great strides we’re seeing around train stations and building good places like TRITEC is doing in Ronkonkoma, the jobless rate could approach 50 percent in the next decade,” he said, citing the growing number of retirees and the deterioration of the job market as contributing factors.

“As a real estate development firm, we are looking at technological advances we feel will impact the local economy. We want our developments to be ready to handle anything that comes with the national and international economy.” To do this, Renaissance offers “significant flexibility in the entitlement packages” in each of their efforts to ensure that when markets and technology shifts, their zoning is “100 percent ready to stay resilient environmentally and socially.” In short, they seek flexible zoning that evolves alongside  the market.

Even though Renaissance is on the cutting edge of the modern development spectrum, for McLean it all comes back to the residents. “We really try to give a voice to the people in the community and build on the character of the people that are there.” The opportunities they’re trying to create aren’t exclusive to Renaissance either. The company is welcoming of additional developer participation on their projects. “It’s not just that we’re building those projects. We invite the world to invest alongside us.”

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