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Long Island's Hicksville Begins Downtown Renovation It Hopes Will Bring In Millennials To Live And Work

HICKSVILLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Another community on Long Island has launched what it hopes will be a major downtown renaissance.

Hicksville is undergoing some big changes.

The Nassau County community's big claim to fame is it is the home town of Billy Joel and has the Island's busiest railroad hub.

Aside from that, residents say it looks like its stuck in the 1960s, with old, crumbling storefronts and very little new to draw millennials.

But that all changed on Thursday, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported.

MOREDespite Upbeat Holiday Sales Numbers, Macy's Closing 29 Stores, Including In Hicksville And Commack

The first smart-growth development in Hicksville -- a vacant building transformed into shared work space with 18 new apartments above -- is just steps from the railroad station. Oyster Bay town leaders say it's template to transform Hicksville into a vibrant walkable downtown.

While other Long Island hamlets and villages like Farmingdale and Westbury have seen explosive growth of millennial housing and destination main streets, Hicksville has lagged behind, despite a $10 million grant in 2017.

"When you design big change, substantial change, in a community, it takes time for momentum to build. But now we have that momentum. So you'll start to see the projects coming about faster," Oyster Bay Supervisor Joseph Saladino said. "You'll see the process go more and more smoothly. Just the way the other communities on Long Island and throughout the state have taken some time to do it right."

Now, 10 more new buildings are planned to create a vibrant suburban downtown hub community leaders say they have been dreaming of for decades.

"I actually said 10 years ago, what I would like to be able to say, before my grandkids have their own kids, is 'Lets go for a walk in downtown Hicksville.' [It's] in sight," resident Phil Heckler said.

Years have been spent wrangling over the vision. Many here did not want the higher buildings that are allowed in neighboring downtowns.

"We don't want to see it become more like a city, more like Queens. We want it to stay that suburban lifestyle," Nassau County Legislator Rose Walker said.

Hicksville has seen an explosion of international food stores, delis, and small restaurants. Officials say they want to keep the international flavor, but also want to make it more appealing for young people and empty-nesters to live and work in the area. They say that takes modernization.

Oyster Bay town officials are pushing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to build new commuter parking in Hicksville, which they say is key to redevelopment. The agency, which has poured $100 million into recent train station improvements, said talks are underway.

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