Tarps have covered the crumbling remains of the namesake roof at the Thatched Cottage for years, but the new owners of the once-popular Centerport catering hall have started renovations with the goal of hosting weddings again by late next year.
The facility, rebranded as Water's Edge, was sold in December 2016 to the Crest Group real estate firm of Hauppauge, which also owns the Danfords Hotel, Marina & Spa in Port Jefferson.
The company intends to remake the hall with an "upscale Art Deco, Gatsby" vibe, said Christina Whitehurst, chief marketing officer for the Crest Group and director of sales and marketing for Water's Edge. "We're definitely going for a Gold Coast feel, very high-end to match the wedding experience."
She said work will begin in earnest soon and expects construction on the 21,000-square-foot facility will wrap up by the end of spring.
"Over the next two weeks, people will visibly be able to see that some action is going on at the property building — there's been a lot happening over the last couple of months to ready the property for these significant renovations," Whitehurst said. The building's footprint remains the same, but the exterior and interiors will be overhauled, with the addition of a ballroom, higher ceilings and more outdoor terraces planned at the 2.18-acre site on Route 25A.
The renovations represent the first improvements at the site since it was left to decay with the bankruptcy filing by and subsequent arrest of its former owner. Ralph Colamussi, who federal prosecutors allege paid immigrant workers from the Philippines substandard wages and threatened them physically to keep working at the catering hall, pleaded guilty in September to a federal charge of forced labor. Former manager Roberto Villanueva was also charged in the case and is due back in federal court Nov. 9.
Colamussi, who faces up to 20 years in prison, was ordered to make restitution and pay a fine of up to $250,000. He was released from federal prison on $250,000 secured bond in October and is under house detention awaiting sentencing, according to court documents. He had owned the restaurant for 26 of its 90-year history.
The federal investigation came after Colamussi filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2014, citing hurricane and storm damage to the property. The building was condemned by the Town of Huntington, which led a potential buyer to back out of a $4.65 million auction bid for the property.
The bankruptcy trustee then sold the site to Colamussi's largest creditor, Bethpage Federal Credit Union, as part of his $5.7 million debt. The property, on Mill Pond, was appraised at $8.5 million in 2010. The credit union sold it to Crest Group for $2.8 million in 2016.
The renovations, which Whitehurst said will cost about $5 million to $6 million, will give the facility a "completely different" look.
"I don't really know what he did to the property during the last 10 years, but it's going to look completely different than what Ralph had previously," Whitehurst said. "It's going to be a complete departure from the Thatched look."