Riverhead Town officials are applying for $500,000 in funding from the New York State Main Street Grant Program as part of the effort to transform blighted vacant property near the Peconic riverfront into a $2.5 million complex that would include a food market, food court and commercial kitchen.
Town board members passed a resolution authorizing the application during a special July 28 board meeting.
“We’re very excited about this,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter. “It’s another vacant building being repurposed.”
Chris Kempner, Riverhead’s community development director, said the project would be a catalyst for rebooting development downtown, which has had mixed success. The project will be developed by Michael Butler, a managing partner in North South Development LLC and a Sag Harbor resident.
In 2013, Butler, 51, bought the former Woolworth’s building at 126-138 Main St. and created 25,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor and 19 apartments on the second floor. Tenants include Goldberg’s Bagels, Robert James Salon and Maximus gym.
“It will add a lot to the texture of downtown,” Kempner said of the project. “We have a lot of restaurants, and we’re going to have a lot of residential units coming in. This would be in line with the culinary institute, the Long Island Aquarium, the East End Arts Center and two theaters. This would add a place where people could go and have activities.”
Butler said the project, which will be called the Downtown Riverhead Food Market and Production Center, is “still in its early stages,” but plans are to transform the space into a one-story, 10,000-square-foot structure.
The property, at 103-105 E. Main St., has been vacant for about 10 years and is the former site of a supermarket and boating supply store. Kempner said it would be similar to large trendy, upscale food-centered facilities in Manhattan.
“Now food is like an attraction — like Chelsea Market and Eataly,” Kempner said.
Chelsea Market features a food hall, shopping mall, office building and an area for television production.
Eataly is an Italian marketplace that includes restaurants, cafes, counters and a cooking school.
“The physical building itself has been vacant and decaying,” Kempner said. “The adaptive reuse would open it up to showcase the whole corner and the view to the river. It would be an attractive corridor right in the center of town.”
Between 15,000 and 25,000 cars pass through that area of Main Street daily, Kempner noted.
Walter said Butler is “spot on” with his plan.
“He’s trying to break it up and make it a little bit more usable for other merchants to come in,” the supervisor said.
Butler said the town is a perfect location for business.
“I just think it’s got a lot of good logistics and it’s reachable,” Butler said. “People are used to going there from Nassau and Suffolk counties, and it’s close to the East End.”
Food for thought
The proposed Main Street food complex will include:
- Food market
- Food court
- Commercial kitchen for food preparation and demonstrations
- Event space