Reconsidering Suburbs

Projects like the planned Nassau Hub on Long Island suggest that it's time to rethink some assumptions about suburban strategies.
Executive Editor Paul Rosta
Executive Editor Paul Rosta

As a real estate reporter in reasonably good standing, I’ve spent years tracking the trends in city markets of all sizes and locations. Investment, development, financing and asset management of urban properties are endlessly absorbing, and cities are typically where the commercial real estate action is. Yet during the past few years, it’s dawned on me that it’s time to broaden my horizons. Yes, it’s time to pay a lot more attention to the suburbs.

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Nassau County, the cluster of bedroom communities where I grew up, is about as suburban as it gets. My brother, sister and I were well acquainted with the privileges, frustrations and periodic boredom of suburban life in the postwar era. Mom and Dad saw to it that we kids gained a sense of the infinite possibilities offered by New York City, just an hour’s ride on the Long Island Rail Road. My siblings and I all eventually gravitated to cities once we reached adulthood. I’d like to think it’s no coincidence that I’ve spent a good chunk of my adult life immersed in the city-centric aspects of commercial real estate.

What Goes Around …

Rendering of Nassau Hub, Uniondale, N.Y. Image courtesy of BSE Global and RXR Realty

These days, when I think about the suburbs, I often think about Jackson Browne, the Allman Brothers Band, and Crosby, Stills and Nash. Decades ago, I saw all three acts perform at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, maybe a 35-minute drive from our house.

Opened in 1972, the sports and entertainment venue was already obsolete by the turn of the century, bypassed by regional competitors like Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan and Barclays Center in Brooklyn. But in the past several years, the Coliseum has received a new lease on life, starting with a $165 million makeover that was completed in 2017.

Now, an even more ambitious reinvention is in the works. The Coliseum’s owner-operator, BSE Global, is teaming up with RXR Realty on the Nassau Hub, a $1.5 billion redevelopment planned for 60 acres surrounding the Coliseum. Published reports indicate that the sponsors want to build office and biotechnology research space; two hotels; entertainment and retail; and 500 residential units. In a telling comment, RXR CEO Scott Rechler has referred to the vision for the Nassau Hub as “a transformative live, work, play community on Long Island.”

Such issues as the confluence of city and suburb; density in suburban settings; and strategies for unlocking long-dormant potential, all merit a closer look. For more, read Sibley Fleming’s cover story in this issue, “Best of Both Worlds.”

Read the March 2019 issue of CPE.