As Smithtown voters prepare to go to the polls next Tuesday to cast the first of many votes in the 2013 elections, the future of Main Street hangs in the balance.
Smithtown's Main Street is not only the geographic center where Town Hall stands, but also serves as its primary downtown area that – ideally – draws in shoppers from Commack, Hauppauge, Kings Park, Nesconset and other nearby towns.
But, what stores are left to bring shoppers into the downtown area?
The blue landmarks on the interactive map above show more than 20 retail stores and/or commercial spaces along Main Street to Route 111 that are currently vacant. These shopping centers used to house stores such as
Snap Fitness and
Rockaway Bedding, along with more recent closures such as the Psychic and
The Artful Dodger.
Supervisor Patrick Vecchio released a study done in August by the Smithtown Planning Department that found only 12 of the 136 retail/commercial sites on Smithtown's Main Street are empty – a vacancy rate of roughly 6 percent. Of the 12 vacant storefronts, four of the locations have potential plans filed with the town for future uses – if they are approved.
Vecchio said the current vacancy rate is in line with historic town records, as well as with Suffolk County's Planning Department, which indicates an average 6.25 percent vacancy rate among Main Street's stores.
"Considering that we are coming out of the worst depression since World War II, it is remarkable that we have reached the annual 6 percent average rate. For those who think that the sky is falling, look around, it's not," Vecchio said on Aug. 5, when the data was released.
However, Frank DeRubeis, Smithtown's Planning Director, said the town's study does not include any vacant store fronts in[deleted "the"] Village of the Branch. Some of Smithtown's largest Main Street shopping plazas, [added comma here] including the Village Commons, Branch plaza and Village Center, [added comma here] are all within Village of the Branch.
Councilman Robert Creighton, who is running against Vecchio to be the Republican candidate for supervisor on Tuesday, was unhappy about the number of vacancies on Main Street.
"I don’t think this is acceptable. We should have as full of
an occupancy as we should have. The only way we can do that is to encourage
people to come in and fix up the buildings," Creighton said.
Patch took to the streets, going door-to-door, counting those storefronts that do not have an open and active business. We spoke to local business owners and knocked on doors.
On the map above, we've included the campaign offices rented by both Councilman Robert Creighton and Vecchio in our map of vacant buildings. Neither one is a business that attracts shoppers and, we expect, both campaign headquarters will close by November, leaving empty storefronts once again.
Take a virtual stroll through Smithtown's Main Street by clicking on the map above.
What would you like to see done – or who should fill it? How important is Smithtown's Main Street to your vote in the upcoming election? Log in to Patch and share your thoughts as a comment below.