Can Real Estate Development Benefit The Environment?

Author: Christopher Kelly of Tritec Real Estate Company        11/20/2017


Smart Growth & Sustainable Redevelopment

Historically, employing “green” techniques in real estate development seemed unattainable. Contrary to the belief that new development will add to our environmental headache, many new developments can be the start of a cleaner, healthier Long Island. Modern-day construction practices and innovative building plans are paving the way to forward-thinking, environmentally-conscious and economically-feasible development projects. Regardless of whether or not a new project moves to apply for LEED certification, the inclusion of sustainable elements, such as Energy Star-rated appliances, or the distinctive choice of labor, materials and methods can in fact have a significantly positive impact on the environment.

The choice of where a new development is located can have a greater impact on the environment than any other variable. By redeveloping neglected areas, land and resources are utilized much more efficiently from both an economic and environmental standpoint. Through the employment of smart growth and compact development principles, the construction of multifamily residences on previously developed land will not only help to address Long Island’s rental housing deficit, but will aid in protecting the region’s open space and farmland. Developing an apartment community within a walkable area, or close to public transit options, is projected to reduce the number of car trips residents take over time. In March of 2015, sales at restaurants and bars overtook spending at grocery stores for the first time ever. As such, providing plenty of dining options within walking distance of home, as is the case with New Village at Patchogue, will further benefit a reduction in carbon emissions from automobiles.

Long Island’s TRITEC Real Estate Company is in the process of redeveloping over 50 acres in Ronkonkoma, which is currently a significantly underutilized asset in Suffolk County. The property is centrally located within a transportation hub, situated alongside the Ronkonkoma Train Station, adjacent to Long Island MacArthur Airport, and two blocks from the Long Island Expressway; however, the site is not at all walkable, nor is there any link between the transit modes. Creating housing, as well as retail and commercial business buildings to spur the local economy, will establish a transit-oriented walkable community in a previously blighted industrial area. Suffolk County has decided to connect this project to the Southwest Sewer District to help protect the County’s underground drinking water, as well as permit connections along the route, spurring additional economic development in Islip and Brookhaven Towns.

Real estate development is often looked at as a cause for, or an exacerbation of, water quality issues, which have become a serious concern on Long Island. However, applying sustainable development techniques, enforcing storm water management regulations, as well as expanding and improving upon Long Island’s sewage networks can vastly enhance existing conditions. In fact, funds have been allocated for $383 million sewer. The upgrades to the Southwest Sewer District will dramatically jumpstart a comprehensive effort to reduce nitrogen pollution that adversely affects coastal wetlands that protect communities from damaging storms and are critical to the region’s economic and environmental health. Sewering key areas will remove 3 million pounds of nitrogen from Great South Bay tributaries over the next 10 years, amounting to a 25% reduction in nitrogen.

The Shipyard at Port Jeff Harbor is a project currently under construction that will replace a vacant motel (shown in the above photo) in a walkable downtown village with sewer connection. The existing building and asphalt lot cover most of the site with an impervious surface. TRITEC’s new development includes subsurface parking so as to increase the site’s green space by 50% and thereby reduce heat island effect. Further, the site backs up to Mill Creek which eventually runs out into the Long Island Sound. As part of the property’s redevelopment, TRITEC will remove invasive plant species and provide for the complete capture of storm water runoff, which is currently nonexistent on the site.

TRITEC is also proposing a residential development at an existing industrial site located two blocks from Wellwood Avenue, the main thoroughfare in the Village of Lindenhurst, and across the street from Lindenhurst Train Station, promoting both mass transit and a walkable neighborhood. As is the case in any of TRITEC’s multifamily developments, The Residences at Lindenhurst will be connected to sewer. Further, TRITEC will make drastic improvements to a blighted stream that bisects the property, restoring the waterway to a natural state and serving as an amenity for the residents.

Without the redevelopment of properties like those located in Port Jefferson, Lindenhurst and Ronkonkoma, such areas would continue to endure blight, land use inefficiencies, significant storm water management issues as well as the pollutive problems associated with septic systems. Through smart real estate development, a balance can be achieved that provides for expanded housing options, economic development, and a sustainable environment.