For her first development project, Manhattan-based commercial real estate broker Georgia Malone decided to skip Gotham's bustle in favor of the more low-key atmosphere of downtown Riverhead.
Malone, president of commercial real estate brokerage Georgia Malone & Co. Inc., has spent the past three months refurbishing the second and third floors of 30 West Main St. into a sleek shared office space.
"I just thought . . . I'd rather spend time out East working on a new business rather than spend time in Harlem or Brooklyn, which are also good value-added markets," the Baldwin native said.
The project comes as the revitalization of downtown Riverhead begins to take off. Talk of breathing new life into the sleepy downtown goes back decades, and now local officials say it's becoming reality. Malone's office development could be another step in that effort.
"There's normal ebb and flow of business now," said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter. "We're having . . . exciting businesses come in. I think we're starting to see a very healthy downtown."
The office space, called Thirty West Main, is expected to open in August, Malone said. Shared office spaces, also called co-working spaces, provide communal work areas and small private offices. They have become a trendy option for small and startup companies because they are low-cost and do not require lengthy lease commitments.
"This office building . . . can provide aid for people in all types of economic situations," Malone said.
Businesses can pay between $338 and $2,188 per month for access to a shared workspace or private office, depending on the membership level. Malone plans to market the space to law firms because of its proximity to the Riverhead courthouses, as well as to startups and people who work from home.
Thirty West Main is the first project by a New York City-based developer in the downtown area in recent years, said Ike Israel, a Riverhead-based commercial broker who sold the building. Malone's business partner in the development is Amir Korangy, the Manhattan-based publisher of the real estate blog The Real Deal.
The two purchased the building through a limited liability company for $1.3 million in January and inherited a retail tenant selling musical instruments on the first floor, Malone said. The renovation of the upper floors, which stood empty for years, will cost about $600,000.
The project was approved for $140,000 worth of tax abatements over 10 years by the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency, IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James said.
Malone's project is a plus for Riverhead's downtown, but the area is far from a total comeback. There are still vacant buildings on Main Street, and some brokers say the proximity of larger shopping developments on Route 58 detracts attention from downtown.
Local officials, however, point to the completion of the Summerwind affordable-housing project, the restoration of the Suffolk Theater and the opening of several widely lauded restaurants as progress. They estimate developers have put up to $20 million into downtown projects in the past five years.
For Malone, who oversaw $640 million in real estate deals in 2013 and specializes in sales and purchases of multimillion-dollar portfolios of apartment and office buildings, the decision to locate her first personal development project in Riverhead was rooted in her desire to be on Long Island and contribute to the growth downtown.
She said she started noticing Riverhead and its changes in the past decade, as she owns a home in Westhampton and often drove through the downtown to shop at the Tanger Outlet on Route 58.
"I started noticing how beautiful the town was . . . it's a mix of old and new."