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Boutique hotel, upscale restaurant planned for downtown Riverhead

12/07/2015 8:00 PM |

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The company that owns the Long Island Aquarium and Hyatt Hotel in downtown Riverhead is proposing to build a five-story hotel with an upscale restaurant across the street.

Joe Petrocelli, Atlantis Holding principal and the aquarium’s co-founder, addressed the Riverhead IDA during its meeting Monday night to explain how the latest development plan aims to revitalize downtown Riverhead.

“I promise you,” Mr. Petrocelli told the IDA, “this will be the number one restaurant on Long Island.”

He attended the meeting with aquarium general manager Bryan DeLuca and the company’s attorney, Eric Russo, to give an overview of the proposal.

“We intend to have the restaurant become a focal point of the East End dining establishment and historical communities,” Mr. DeLuca said.

Mr. Petrocelli is planning to restore an old house located across the street and turn it into an upscale restaurant. The Preston House, built in 1902, is named after Henry H. Preston, a Civil War hero who also was Shelter Island’s first elected sheriff.

Not only is Mr. Petrocelli planning to restore the structure, but he also wants to use the Preston name for the restaurant.

Behind the restaurant, Mr.Petrocelli is proposing to build a 20-unit “boutique” hotel on Ostrander Avenue and East Main Street. Both buildings will be attached to each other, he said.

“It’s a great project, but I’m not crazy about the looks,” IDA chair Tom Cruso said in response to a rendering of the proposed restaurant and hotel. Mr. Petrocelli described the rendering as an initial drawing and said it will likely be changed.

The IDA has previously granted Atlantis Holding tax incentives for other development projects.

The aquarium, originally called Atlantis Marine World, received a ten-year tax abatement and other incentives in 2000, including county mortgage recording tax abatements, sales tax abatements on building materials used in the construction and a property tax abatement on the value of the improvements to the site.

The property tax abatement was granted for 10 years at a 100 percent abatement each year on the value of the improvements. When that abatement expired, the company was granted an additional 10-year abatement for the aquarium and new Hyatt Place East End, which opened in 2011.

The IDA’s normal property tax abatement starts at 50 percent and decreases the amount of the abatement by five percent each year.

[Special Report: What’s the cost of IDA tax breaks?]

Atlantis Holding representatives said Monday that they are seeking the same arrangement to move forward with their newest development projects, as well as to refinance the mortgage on their existing hotel and aquarium properties.

Hyatt Place East End is one of the top Hyatt hotels in the country and its often at capacity on weekends, Mr. DeLuca said, adding the hotel/aquarium complex has a $40 million annual impact on the local economy. The aquarium also houses and supports the non-profit Riverhead Foundation, which rescues and rehabs injured seals and marine life.

Mr. Russo said that store vacancy rates in downtown Riverhead have decreased and the Atlantis projects have helped revive the area in part because the IDA believed in them and granted the original tax incentives.

“As you have seen, everything we hoped to accomplish — based on the reputation and credibility of the applicants — was realized,” Mr. Russo said.

The original projection with the aquarium was that it would generate about 150 jobs, he said, adding it generated 218 jobs in total. The new proposal will add between 20 and 25 more jobs, along with about 220 construction jobs, he said.

A public hearing to discuss the proposal is scheduled for Jan. 4.

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Photo: A rendering of the proposed 20-room hotel (right) attached to the historic Preston House where a restaurant is proposed. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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