Jericho developer David Gallo has agreed to buy the long-vacant former Sears building in Riverhead and three adjacent buildings in a deal town officials hail as a significant step toward the economic revival of downtown.
Gallo's contract to purchase the buildings followed about 20 months of on-and-off negotiations with Lynbrook-based CPA Sheldon Gordon, who owns the buildings through a holding company, Riverhead Enterprises LLC, said Connie Lassandro, a consultant for Gallo who helped negotiate the deal.
Gallo's company, Georgica Green Ventures LLC, plans to replace the old structures with a five-story building with stores on the ground floor, about 160 apartments on upper floors and underground parking, she said.
Lassandro said the agreement, first reported Friday by the news website RiverheadLOCAL.com, was signed Thursday. She declined to reveal the price Gallo agreed to pay. Lassandro said she expects the deal to close "quickly" but did not have an exact date.
"It's a turning point for Riverhead," Lassandro said. "It's going to be another Patchogue."
Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the four existing one-story buildings comprise about 60,000 square feet of space. Three are vacant, and one houses a small church, East End Full Gospel.
Riverhead officials have worked for years to attract developers and investors to the town's struggling Main Street, which decades ago was a hub for department stores such as Woolworth's, Swezey's and Sears.
Town officials had complained that several vacant Main Street buildings owned by Gordon and others were hampering efforts to revitalize the downtown. Walter said he had briefly considered condemning the buildings because they had languished so long.
Walter, reached Saturday, celebrated that a deal was reached instead. "I think it's going to be the final turning point" for Main Street, he said.
Once the four buildings are redeveloped, there will be three vacant buildings left on Main Street, Walter said. Gordon owns one, and two others have different owners, he said.
Walter said he is trying to attract an assisted living center to redevelop some or all of the remaining vacant buildings.
Town officials have focused for years on attracting developers of mixed-use apartment and retail buildings and breweries to the downtown, in an attempt to draw young renters and foster an economic transformation similar to that underway in Patchogue.
Successes in Riverhead have included the reopening of the old Woolworth's store last year as a mixed-use apartment and commercial building, the renovation and reopening of the Suffolk Theater in 2013 and the opening of the Hyatt Place hotel in 2011.
A Rochester developer and a Centereach nonprofit are planning to construct a 48-unit apartment building to be marketed toward artists on West Main Street.
Sheldon Gordon, a Lynbrook-based CPA, negotiated the sale of the former Sears building in Riverhead and three adjacent properties off and on for about 20 months with a Jericho developer. His title and the timeframe of the negotiations were incorrect in a story Monday.