01/16/14 6:00am
01/16/2014 6:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO  |  Vacant land is fast disappearing on Route 58. Irwin Garsten owns the above piece of property, just east of the Hudson Savings Bank building, where he has a site plan application for a shopping center.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Vacant land is fast disappearing on Route 58. Irwin Garsten owns the above piece of property, just east of the Hudson Savings Bank building, where he has a site plan application for a shopping center.

To the editor:

In your story about the dwindling commercial land along Big Box Alley (AKA, Route 58), it seems you neglected the next progression of commercial development. If we understand anything about real estate developers it is that turning land into big bank accounts is a never-ending endeavor, so the real question is, “What will they covet next?”

Can the 40 acres that were Homan’s Farm, on the northwest corner of Route 58 and Northville Turnpike, be preserved, or will that be the next shopping mall? The southeast corner is still undeveloped, though it’s mostly low-lying and swampy.

How far north can they still develop if they take land north of that intersection? Will Sound Avenue fall to the bulldozers? Can we reasonably defend that now well-traveled rural corridor from the lawyers of real estate developers, or not? If the commercializing of Riverhead with all that would never be permitted in Southold or Southampton teaches us anything, it is that nothing in Riverhead is sacred.

Edward Burke, Riverhead

01/15/14 11:00am
01/15/2014 11:00 AM
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The new Walmart on Route 58 features a fresh produce section.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The new Walmart on Route 58 features a fresh produce section.

After years of development, the new Walmart on the western end of Route 58 in Riverhead celebrated its grand opening Wednesday morning.

The new store, which features a Subway restaurant and an expanded line of groceries, is more than 30,000 square feet larger than the former Walmart located further east, also on Route 58. The former Walmart is now officially closed.

“We’re happy that Walmart is investing in the town of Riverhead, and it’s a beautiful brand new building,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter. “Riverhead is a shopping district, pulling from Montauk to Orient Point to Brookhaven. Thousands of people will visit this Walmart and have the opportunity to see what Riverhead is all about.”

As part of its launch, Walmart presented $11,500 in grants to local non-profits, including Southold Troop 6, Parents’ Association of Riley Avenue and Suffolk County Sheriff’s office among others.

Walmart store manager Craig Winkler gives a speech at the new store Tuesday evening.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO  |  Walmart store manager Craig Winkler gives a speech at the new store Tuesday evening.

Though originally planned to be a Walmart Supercenter, a Walmart spokeswoman confirmed last week the new location is a regular discount store. Supercenters typically include full-service grocery stores with delis, bakeries and sometimes hair salons.

Plans for the relocated Walmart stem from 2007, the year Riverhead Town approved initial building plans. That approval was challenged in court in two separate lawsuits, both of which were dismissed in May 2009.

Walmart will continue its grand opening celebrations in Riverhead this Saturday with its “Big Family Welcome” from noon to 3 p.m. During the event, customers will have the chance to meet store manager Craig Winkler and participate in activities like face painting, cupcake decorating and free food samples.

ryoung@timesreview.com

01/12/14 8:00am
01/12/2014 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Vacant land is fast disappearing on Route 58. Irwin Garsten owns the above piece of property, just east of the Hudson Savings Bank building, where he has a site plan application for a shopping center.

While Riverhead Town officials have for years tried to bring new stores to downtown Riverhead, the developers and owners of large retail complexes continue to flock to Route 58, as evidenced most clearly by the new Walmart and Costco rising on the west side of the road.

To the east, there’s new set of medical and professional buildings. And even more shopping plazas are on the way.

Route 58 — or Riverhead’s tax base, as the town supervisor calls it — follows a different pattern from the downtown core, which is known more for its local restaurants and “redevelopment” efforts. This contrast has led some to complain of “overdevelopment” on Route 58.

But is it even fair to compare the two?

“It’s a different kind of animal,” said realtor Larry Oxman, who is also a member of the downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District’s management association.

Mr. Oxman said that although downtown is generating a lot of interest, developers of large retail stores continue to want locations on Route 58.

But building there comes at a price.

The rent on downtown leases is usually about half what a business owner would pay for a comparable property on Route 58, and downtown businesses pay less in common area maintenance costs because downtown is in a public parking district, said Mr. Oxman, adding that he’s representing two Route 58 properties currently for sale, both of which are getting a lot of interest.

While critics have decried the abundance of big box stores as a loss of local character, the buildings keep on coming, lured by large parking areas and proximity to other big-name retailers, such as Tanger Outlets, the thoroughfare’s anchor tenant, so to speak.

NEW PROJECTS

A new medical office complex is under construction at the intersection of Route 58 and Northville Turnpike.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The new, larger Walmart on Route 58 near Tanger Outlets is slated to open Jan. 15. Even though the improvements on the property have yet to be fully assessed, the property owners will be paying $124,928 in taxes for 2014.

Walmart, Fortune 500’s largest retailer nationwide, will soon vacate its current 120,000-square-foot space near Northville Turnpike and move into a 170,000-square-foot store directly across from the entrance to Tanger.

The Costco warehouse store that will sit just east of the new Walmart already has a building in place with the store’s name on it. It is not expected to open until later this year, as road and infrastructure work have yet to be completed.

The new Saber-Riverhead shopping center across from Costco already has several open stores, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops and Five Below.

So is there anywhere left to build on Route 58?

Yes indeed; in fact, a few proposals are already in the hopper.

The 12-acre property between Hudson City Savings Bank and the town highway yard is owned by Apple Honda’s Irwin Garsten, who has submitted a site plan application to build a 64,000-square-foot shopping center there.

The owner of the 1.5-acre lot at the southwest corner of Route 58 and Kroemer Avenue, Barclay Ehler, has a site plan in place to build a 14,400-square-foot retail store there. Once work begins, the county Department of Public Works plans to take part of that property to realign the intersection.

The former Rolle Brothers farm equipment site just east of Ostrander Avenue also is being proposed for development by owner Richard Israel, who hopes to create restaurants and retails stores there.

And Browning Hotel Properties plans to build a second hotel next to the 114-room Hilton Garden Inn it owns on the north side of Route 58, across from Tanger Outlets. The second hotel would be a 140-room Marriott Residence Inn, according to owner Lee Browning, who said he plans to file a site plan for the new hotel soon.

THE COSTS

According to numbers on Riverhead Town’s tax roll for this year, commercial properties on Route 58 will pay a combined total of just over $14 million in property taxes in 2014.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The owners of the Costco site are paying $431,069 this year in property taxes.

The biggest contributors are Tanger Outlets, which will pay $4.3 million in property taxes, and Riverhead Centre, which will pay $1.5 million, including school, town and other taxes.

Supervisor Sean Walter has said that about $750,000 in property taxes will be added to the tax rolls next year following the completion of the Route 58 projects currently under construction — but even so, those properties are already paying pretty hefty tax bills.

Owners of Costco site are paying $431,069 this year, while the owners of the new Walmart property are on the hook for $124,928 in taxes.

The Saber-Riverhead center, next door to Riverhead Raceway, is currently paying $108,761 in property taxes, according to town records.

The three new shopping centers rising on the west end of Route 58 all began construction after the March 1 “taxable status date,” which means they were assessed based on what was on the property as of March 1 last year, said Riverhead Town Assessor Mason Haas. Next year, they will likely be assessed at higher amounts, he said, as the projects should be closer to completion by March 1.

Compare this with downtown, where, for example, 12 properties owned by the Riverhead Enterprises property group collectively generate far less in taxes than the Route 58 Stop & Shop — $195,315 compared to $261,110.

While Route 58 is sometimes criticized as being overdeveloped, Supervisor Walter disagrees, noting that’s what the stretch was meant for.

“I think it’s a tremendous thing, and the overwhelming majority of residents that I speak with … say they love Route 58,” he said. “They love the fact that the stores are there, but you can go to a rural setting just a mile away. Riverhead has always been a shopping district for the East End, and that’s our tax base. Without the taxes we receive from stores on Route 58, everyone’s taxes would be a lot higher.”

tgannon@timesreview.com

01/10/14 10:40am
01/10/2014 10:40 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Store manager (far right) Christopher Marinos cuts the ribbon as customers waited outside Friday morning.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Store manager (far right) Christopher Marinos cuts the ribbon as customers waited outside Friday morning.

Discount grocery retailer Aldi opened at 9 a.m. Friday morning after a brief ceremonial ribbon cutting as around 50 customers waited outside in the cold. It is the fourth store to open in the Route 58 shopping center where Dick’s Sporting Goods, Five Below and Christmas Tree Shops is located. It is also the fourth store to open in Suffolk County of the privately held company, which came stateside in 1973 and has 1,300 store in 32 states.

The 18,000 square-foot store has five aisles which are open and bright with large signage and grocery items are stocked by case to make it more efficient. One of the aisles is stocked with non-grocery discount items which vice  president Bruce Persohn called “here today gone tomorrow” sale items. The store is open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday.

District manager Matt Schapiro said that they are in the middle of a coast-to-coast expansion, locally with stores in Lake Grove, Lindenhurst and Bay Shore. They are currently eyeing a location in Patchogue based on customer response. “We look to locate where there is anybody who needs groceries and likes to save money is a great customer as far as I’m concerned.”

Bridget and Frank Sears of Houston flew up just for the opening. His parents live in Riverhead and they shop at some of the five Aldi stores at home. They said that they love the shopping experience and discounts of the grocery chain.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | A customer grabs some goods at the Aldi opening on Friday morning.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Gorg Westermann of Wading River, formerly of Solatu, German, grabs some goods at the Aldi opening on Friday morning.

01/08/14 11:00am
01/08/2014 11:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Aldi will open on Route 58 in Riverhead Jan. 10, the company announced in a press release.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Aldi will open on Route 58 in Riverhead Jan. 10, the company announced in a press release.

Low-price grocery retailer Aldi will open its Route 58 store on Jan. 10, a public relations spokesperson for the company said in a press release. A 9 a.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony will be held outside the store, which is located in a shopping center just east of Riverhead Raceway. A grand opening event with product samples and on-site sweepstakes for the chance to win Aldi gift cards will follow.

“We are pleased to bring our first store to Riverhead to help customers get high-quality products at everyday low prices,” said Bruce Persohn, South Windsor division vice president for Aldi. “We challenge shoppers to switch from national brands to our high-quality exclusive brands and save up to 50 percent without compromising. As important as price is, the only way to attract and keep shoppers is to have quality products.”

A national retailer with nearly 1,300 stores in 32 states, Aldi sells food and general merchandise under generic brands exclusive its company, a move the retailer claims saves customers money.

When Aldi launches later this week, it will be the fourth retailer in the new shopping center to open its doors, joining Dick’s Sporting Goods, Five Below and Christmas Tree Shops. Starbucks is still under construction in the plaza.

Buffalo Wild Wings, which is located in the shopping center next to Aldi, was previously expected to open Dec. 9 but remains closed.

ryoung@timesreview.com

01/06/14 1:30pm
01/06/2014 1:30 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The new Walmart on Route 58 is scheduled to open Jan. 15 and will include an expanded line of groceries.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The new Walmart on Route 58 is scheduled to open Jan. 15 and will include an expanded line of groceries.

After years of development, the new Walmart on the western end of Route 58 in Riverhead is slated to open Jan. 15, the company announced Monday morning.

The new store, which will include an expanded line of groceries, is more than 30,000 square feet larger than the existing Walmart located further east, also on Route 58.

“I’m proud to be a part of a team that is strengthening our local economy by bringing more jobs with great career opportunities to the area,” store manager Craig Winkler said in the press release. “I am looking forward to showing area residents our new store and all it has to offer – including convenience and savings for their everyday shopping needs.”

Though originally planned to be a Walmart Supercenter, a Walmart spokeswoman said Monday that the new location will be a regular discount store. Supercenters typically include full-service grocery stores with delis, bakeries and sometimes hair salons.

Plans for the relocated Walmart stem from 2007, the year Riverhead Town approved initial building plans. That approval was challenged in court in two separate lawsuits, both of which were dismissed in May 2009.

ryoung@timesreview.com

12/13/13 10:47am
12/13/2013 10:47 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The opening of Buffalo Wild Wings has been delayed.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The opening of Buffalo Wild Wings has been delayed.

Buffalo Wild Wings didn’t open Dec. 9 as planned — and the restaurant’s general manager, Andrew Schuett, said Friday morning he doesn’t know when it will.

“At the moment we don’t have an opening date,” he said. “We’re fully functional; we’re just waiting for the ‘OK’ [from the landlord].”

Mr. Schuett declined further comment.

Despite not opening on schedule, Mr. Schuett did hand out vouchers on Monday morning as the restaurant had planned, entitling a number of customers who lined up early to six free wings a week for an entire year.

A popular casual eatery with headquarters in Minneapolis and locations across Long Island, the Riverhead Buffalo Wild Wings is located in a shopping center just east of Riverhead Raceway. The plaza is also home to a recently-opened Dick’s Sporting Goods, Five Below and Christmas Tree Shops. Starbucks, Aldi and The Vitamin Shoppe — all located in the same shopping center — are scheduled to open in the next few months.

ryoung@timesreview.com

12/03/13 10:10am
12/03/2013 10:10 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The back parking lot of the Christmas Tree Shops overlooks a clear view of Riverhead Raceway.

It appears the parking lot of the new Saber Riverhead shopping center — featuring Dick’s Sporting Goods and other stores — gives shoppers something extra: a free view of the high-speed action that will take place next door at Riverhead Raceway.

But not for long.

Management at the Route 58 Raceway plans to erect a new section of billboards to block the view of the southern portion of the track, which can be seen from the adjacent parking lot.

“It’s not going to be an open area,” said Joseph Arian, a marketing manager for the racetrack.

He said the raceway hopes to have the new billboards in place by April, when the 2014 racing season starts.

The idea is to offset the cost of the billboards through the advertisements carried on them, Mr. Arian said.

“We’re hoping the local businesses will want to be involved, especially because of all the new shopping in the area,” he said.

The 122,000-square-foot Saber Riverhead complex, where Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops and Five Below have already opened, is one of three new large shopping centers in the vicinity.

The 271,000-square-foot Shops at Riverhead center, which will have a Costco Warehouse as its anchor, is being constructed across the street from the raceway and a new 170,000-square-foot super Walmart store is being built just west of that.

It’s possible that some shoppers in the new stores, which include a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar and grill, will be inspired to visit the racetrack as well, Mr. Arian said, since it will be just a short walk away.