Village vies to be better ‘burb

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“David Kapell, the former mayor of Greenport, got in touch with me six months ago and said there was a contest and the LIRR was involved …,” Murray recalled. “Their part of it is, they want more people to use their rails. And if we decide to let them use Rockville Centre, it’s really, really got to benefit our residents, or we want nothing to do with it.”

Murray stressed that although the village is required to work with Utile until plans are complete, it will not be required to follow through on them. “This is at no cost to our residents,” he said. “The entire project — the design — is free. We’re not obliged to do anything.”

The lead architect on the project is Tim Love, the founding principal of Utile Inc. and a professor of architecture at Northeastern University. Love said that he and village officials met last month to discuss ideas and walk around downtown so that he and his associates could get a feel for the area.

“I played 20 questions with them,” he said, adding that the village’s representatives were open-minded and welcomed the discussion. “I just kept asking them, ‘What if, what if, what if?’ and they just kept answering back.”

According to Love, Utile has worked extensively with municipalities and public agencies on comprehensive plans for downtown areas, most of which have involved innovative approaches to parking. The firm recently completed a downtown parking garage study for Springfield, Mass., and is designing garages for South Boston’s convention center and the Massachusetts Port Authority.

Love noted that parking garages, in addition to providing commuter parking and freeing up surface lots for other uses, such as apartments or parks, can also be combined with features like ground-level retail space, community programs and solar panel arrays to create a new kind of parking experience.

“We’re not doing a plan with a capital P,” he said. “This is much more a kind of visioning exercise, and I think part of the goal of this is … getting Long Island citizens to think a little bit outside of the box.”

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