Roughly a week after town officials discussed condemning the vacant former Sears building and three nearby buildings on East Main Street, the properties have been sold, owner Shelley Gordon confirmed Friday afternoon.
Mr. Gordon’s company Riverhead Enterprises agreed the sell the buildings to Georgica Green Ventures, a group of developers who have pitched a mixed-use development for the area with storefronts on the ground floor and apartments above.
“They really needed to get developed,” Mr. Gordon said. “The buildings are right in the heart of town.”
News of the deal was first reported on RiverheadLocal.com.
David Gallo, the owner of Georgica Green, said in a statement his company was “excited by the opportunity to contribute to the fast moving revitalization of Downtown Riverhead”
“We are looking forward to working with Supervisor Sean Walter and the Town Board to provide much needed housing, while preserving the historic character of the downtown and complementing the natural beauty of the nearby Peconic River,” he said in a statement to the News-Review.
Mr. Gallo was unable to speak about specifics of the project Friday, and Mr. Gordon did not say a price he sold the buildings for.
Mr. Gordon said discussions to sell the space have been in the works for about a year.
“We kind of held back on renting [the properties] while negotiations were ongoing,” he said. Riverhead Enterprises still owns several other properties along East Main Street, according to the town’s tax rolls.
Last Tuesday, Supervisor Sean Walter said he was frustrated with the vacant buildings which have stayed unsold on the market for years, and proposed condemning the properties. An informal poll of the board found its members split 3 – 2 to move forward with the idea.
Mr. Walter had called to condemn the properties and said Mr. Gordon’s company was “holding us hostage.”
But on Friday, Mr. Walter called the deal a “huge” step forward for the town.
“This deal cleans up that entire block,” he said. “You need the mixed use with the housing component. There has to be people downtown to shop at the stores.”
Mr. Walter said he had been coordinating the deal for the past 20 months.
“I spent a lot of time working on this while everyone else is whining and complaining about the vacant buildings on Main Street,” he said.
When asked why he had proposed condemning the properties with an imminent deal in the works, Mr. Walter said it was “all part of the strategy to get it done” and declined to comment further.
Mr. Gordon, however, said recent talk of the Town Board condemning the properties played no role in the timing of the negotiations.
“We were so close to fruition, there was really no influence,” he said, adding that eminent domain would have actually been a profitable situation due to rules over how much a town must pay to condemn the land.
On Friday, Mr. Gordon said he was hopeful the project would boost downtown Riverhead’s image.
“I think it’s a very good step for the town,” he said.
Caption: Sears closed its downtown Riverhead store in 2006. The building, shown here, has remained vacant for years.