In spring, Amazon's warehouse is expected to open and construction...

In spring, Amazon's warehouse is expected to open and construction to begin on the fifth and final building at the Hampton Business District in Westhampton Beach. Credit: Newsday/Thomas A. Ferrara

In spring, Amazon is expected to open a warehouse at the Hampton Business District in Westhampton Beach, and construction will begin on the district's fifth and final building, officials said.

The two events cap more than 50 years of fits and starts to develop an industrial park at Francis S. Gabreski Airport.

The fifth building will consist of about 98,600 square feet of office, showroom, factory and warehouse space at 230 Roger’s Way.

Nearby, three buildings already house 17 businesses, including cookie maker Tate’s Bake Shop, graphics company Duggal Visual Solutions, AC Lighting & Electric Supplies and Westhampton Beach Brewing Co.

WHAT TO KNOW

•The industrial park will eventually have five buildings, three of which are currently occupied by 17 businesses with about 300 employees.

•The park was first envisioned by Southampton Town officials in 1970 after Francis S. Gabreski Airport was transferred from the U.S. government to Suffolk County. Developer Rechler Equity Partners signed a lease to develop the park in 2013.

•The county’s Industrial Development Agency on Thursday will consider granting final approval for $2 million in tax breaks over 15 years for the park’s fifth building. The previous four buildings also received IDA aid.

The fourth building will be home to the 91,000-square-foot Amazon warehouse, which will make "last-mile" deliveries to customers' doorsteps. The online retailer plans to move into the building in spring, said Mitchell Rechler, co-managing partner of Rechler Equity Partners, the Plainview-based development company that's constructing the industrial park.

An Amazon spokeswoman didn't immediately respond to a request for comment on its plans.

Hundreds of jobs

The idea of developing an industrial park at Gabreski airport stretches back to 1970 when it was envisioned by Town of Southampton officials after the federal government turned over the airport to Suffolk County. However, turf battles between the town and county ensued until a compromise was reached in the early 2000s.

In 2008, Rechler Equity was selected by Suffolk to build and operate the industrial park on 50 acres. Developer Mitchell Rechler said that, once the park is completed, about 400 people will work for the businesses renting the combined 377,100 square feet.

"It took a long time, quite a long time to get off the ground," Rechler said, adding the project began in the 2007-09 recession.

But he and cousin Gregg Rechler, co-managing partner of Rechler Equity, "very strongly believed that there was a demand for quality industrial and warehouse space on the East End," Mitchell Rechler said last week. "We really did believe that if we build it, they will come."

The pair were inspired by their grandfather William Rechler, who together with Walter Gross, began building what is now the Hauppauge Innovation Park in the early 1960s before the LIE was extended to Suffolk.

"My grandfather was a pioneer at the time and, like him, we went out into what was really an untapped market and created something," recalled Mitchell Rechler.

The Hampton Business District’s final building will cost $36 million with about 80% of the space used for production, storage and distribution. "We don’t have any tenants or leases currently," he said.

Request for tax breaks

The county’s Industrial Development Agency is expected on Thursday to consider granting final approval for $2 million in tax breaks for the final building.

Much of the savings would come from a sales-tax exemption of up to $933,900 on the purchase of construction materials and equipment and $926,800 off property taxes over 15 years, or 54%. Still, the developer would pay $790,400 over the period. Rechler Equity signed a 40-year lease on the county land in 2013.

The previous four buildings received similar IDA aid packages as part of the development agreement between Suffolk and Rechler Equity, said Anthony J. Catapano, the agency’s executive director.

"The Hampton Business District has been decades in the making and IDA assistance has been important to its success," he said.

Suffolk Legis. Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) has repeatedly criticized the IDA for awarding tax breaks to the industrial park’s Amazon warehouse, saying the behemoth retailer is undermining small businesses.

Breaking a logjam

Former Suffolk County Executive Steve Levy, his top aide Jim Morgo and former Southampton Town Supervisor Patrick "Skip" Heaney have been credited with breaking the logjam that stymied the park concept from 1970 through the early 2000s.

"The town was worried that the county might run roughshod over their home rule. … They were blocking any idea that came forward," Levy recalled. "So, we created a partnership with [Heaney] where the county agreed that the town would write up a zoning plan, but the county would have to give final approval."

Levy continued, "Once the town knew that the county wasn’t trying to turn Gabreski into the next Kennedy Airport or dictate to the town what would go there, their defenses faded, and we worked very cooperatively."

Morgo agreed, adding the creation of a six-member citizens advisory board by the Suffolk executive and legislature helped to address residents’ concerns about the potential for increased air traffic.

The county and town eventually agreed to 18 restrictions, including no aircraft-related businesses in the industrial park and a prohibition on park tenants using airplanes.

The park’s rentable space will be 15% less than what’s authorized by the Southampton zoning plan because Amazon and some office tenants require more parking. In addition, plans for a hotel were scrapped early on because financing couldn’t be obtained, officials said.

Beyond tourism

Still, "the park has helped to diversify the economy of the East End beyond tourism," said Morgo, chief deputy county executive under Levy and now a consultant to Rechler Equity. "Look at the businesses in the park: everything from a brewery to a cookie manufacturer to Amazon. The park is an economic engine for the East End."

Heaney, who served as Southampton supervisor in 2002-07, said, "The town's economy was largely second-home tourism. ... We didn't have any light-industrial zoned land for smaller businesses to use, to create jobs. It's a good feeling to drive by the project [on County Route 31] now and see all the activity," he said this week.

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