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Sep 18, 2008 12:26 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Levy explains vision for technology park

Sep 18, 2008 12:26 PM

Caring for the environment and supporting economic development are concepts that do not always have to work against each other, said Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy as he discussed his vision for a new business and technology park at Francis S. Gabreski Airport in Westhampton while meeting with business officials in Westhampton Beach on Wednesday night.

Mr. Levy explained that Suffolk officials are envisioning that the Hampton Business and Technology Park, which will be constructed on approximately 53 acres at the county-owned airport, will be an economic boon for the county and local community. At the same time, the county executive noted that the new facility, on which ground will be broken next spring, will be constructed on land that had housed other businesses in the past.

The county executive was speaking at a meeting of the Greater Westhampton Chamber of Commerce, held at the Patio Restaurant on Main Street.

The new business and technology park, which will be built by the Melville-based development firm Rechler Equity Associates, will measure 485,000 square feet and feature a 145-room hotel with conference capabilities. The project will have the potential to house either several large companies, or as many as 40 smaller businesses, and is expected to generate between 600 and 700 new jobs.

“Rechler hopes to have a shovel in the ground by the spring,” Mr. Levy said Wednesday night.

The county announced last week that Rechler was awarded the contract to build the facility and issued a 40-year lease. In turn, the county expects to collect an estimated $40 million in rental revenue from Rechler over the life of the lease.

The Hampton Business and Technology Park will be constructed on land located just east of County Road 31 that Mr. Levy is referring to as “pre-developed.” On Friday, Chief Deputy County Executive Jim Morgo explained that the 53 acres slated for the industrial park are considered “pre-developed” because the land previously had structures on it.

“We’re not clearing any green space or virgin land,” Mr. Morgo said. “In the past, there was more than 245,000 square feet of buildings on those 53 acres.”

During the meeting Wednesday night, Andrew Sheahan, an employee of the Gabreski Airport-based Sheahan Communications, asked whether the project’s architecture will have to approved by the town or county. He also inquired as to whether there will be any aesthetic requirements for the project.

Mr. Levy responded that Southampton Town will mainly oversee the aesthetics and that the project will have to comply with the zoning laws already in place at the site.

Ryan Horn, a spokesman for Southampton Town, said the site’s blueprint will go before Southampton Town’s Architectural Review Board before the industrial park is built. Lloyd Singer, a spokesman for Rechler, said it too early in the process for his company to share any proposed designs for the complex.

Mr. Sheahan’s brother, Denis, asked whether or not the infrastructure at the site would be improved. Mr. Levy said that Rechler will be “beautifying” the airport in order to attract “high quality tenants.”

Bob Murray, the president of the Westhampton Beach Historical Society, also asked questions about the design of the facility. He asked about the projected height of the buildings. Mr. Levy responded that he wasn’t sure of the exact height, but noted that the height would be limited due to the flights going in and out of Gabreski.

Hank Beck, the president of the Hampton Visitors Council and chairman of the Citizens Advisory Committee-West, said he thinks that the buildings will be no larger than 50 feet tall.

Also on Wednesday, Mr. Levy reminded attendees about what his administration has done over the past few years, including spending $280 million to preserve open space in Suffolk County.

“We don’t want to become Brooklyn or Queens, not that there’s anything wrong with that,” Mr. Levy said, noting that his family is from Brooklyn and moved to Holbrook in order to live in the country. “We want to maintain [Suffolk’s] rural characteristics.”

Maintaining the county’s rural characteristics—especially “the charm of the North Fork, and the chic of the Hamptons,” Mr. Levy said—can be done by “locating hotspots that are the focal points of economic development.” The future home of the Hampton Business and Technology Park is one such hotspot, Mr. Levy emphasized throughout his speech on Wednesday night.

The technology park will be able to hook into Gabreski’s pre-existing sewer system, what Mr. Levy called “the linchpin for economic development.” Mr. Morgo explained that the sewer system is essential for development because it collects waste that, under normal septic systems, could contaminate groundwater. The sewage treatment plant at the airport also permits greater density in terms of development, he said.

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