04/24/14 3:50pm
04/24/2014 3:50 PM
Ultimate Fitness is expected to be open within weeks. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

Ultimate Fitness is expected to be open within weeks. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

A 25,000-square foot fitness center in downtown Riverhead’s newly-renovated Woolworth building is targeting an opening early next month, as interior construction work on the apartments above the gym is set to begin.

Maximus Health & Fitness, which relocated from its location on Route 58, should be open in the first or second week of May, constructions workers said as they set up exercise equipment inside the space.  (more…)

06/21/13 10:00am
06/21/2013 10:00 AM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Cecil Sweeney, a laborer with A1 Reliable Industries Corporation of Farmingdale, takes a break from his work on the second floor of the Woolworth building just before 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Cecil Sweeney, a laborer with A1 Reliable Industries Corporation of Farmingdale, takes a break on the second floor of the Woolworth building Thursday afternoon.

Demolition of the 25,000-square-foot Woolworth building in downtown Riverhead began this week.

Michael Butler, Woolworth Revitalization LLC’s managing partner, said Thursday a construction crew is in the midst of demolishing the building’s interior.

“It’s moving along,” Mr. Butler said. “Right now we’re essentially opening up the whole downstairs and getting rid of everything that was rotten and old.”

Mr. Butler couldn’t predict when the demolition will be finished but said it would take at least another month.

“The building had a lot of water damage and it was neglected a long time,” he said.

Ultimate Fitness, a longtime Route 58 gym, is expected to begin occupying 20,000 square feet of the building’s first floor once construction is finished, possibly in September.

The remaining 5,000 square feet on the first floor will be carved into additional retail space and has already generated a good deal of interest from potential tenants, Mr. Butler said.

“There has been a lot of interest from food-related businesses more than anything, whether it’s restaurants or take-out places,” Mr. Butler said.

Building plans also call for 19 apartment units on the building’s 15,000-square-foot second floor.

Woolworth went out of business in 1997 and the building has been empty since then. It was purchased for about $4 million in 2006 by Apollo Real Estate Advisors, a Manhattan-based investment group. At the time, Apollo was proposing a $500 million revitalization for almost all of downtown, though that project later fell apart.

Mr. Butler, who lives in Sag Harbor, purchased the property from Apollo Real Estate Advisors earlier this year.

“We’re fixing it up and in the end it’s going to be a great building,” he said.


04/23/13 2:45pm
04/23/2013 2:45 PM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Workers clean out the Knu Style-N-Temple barber shop on East Main Street Tuesday morning.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Workers clean out Knu Style-N-Temple on East Main Street Tuesday.

An East Main Street barber shop is being shut down after getting evicted from its space, law enforcement personnel said at the scene Tuesday morning.

A manager at the store declined to comment.

Store owner Charlie Green didn’t want to talk about the circumstances around the eviction, but said he was trying to take the move in stride.

“God has his way of moving things, making things move,” Mr. Green said. “Everything happens for a reason.”

A pile of chairs, decorations, and potted plants was stacked outside the store Tuesday morning, as workers loaded the supplies into a moving truck and nearby van.

Knu Style N Temple had moved to the Woolworth building location last November.

The store was on Peconic Avenue for the previous 11 years, and was on Old Quogue Road in Riverside for five years before that, owner Charlie Green previously told the News-Review

Plans are in the works to renovate the recently sold Woolworth building for apartments and retail, including a gym.

Mr. Green said he wasn’t sure whether the barber shop would reopen in a new location.

“It’s up in the air,” he said. “Right now everything is in God’s hands.”


02/15/13 11:00am
02/15/2013 11:00 AM
Woolworth cops

Riverhead police officers Brian Clements and Chris Parkin in front of the Woolworth building Friday.

Downtown Riverhead’s former Woolworth building is changing hands today.

Woolworth Revitalization LLC’s managing partner, Michael Butler of Sag Harbor, told the News-Review Thursday that the $2.2 million closing is scheduled for Friday morning in NYC.

And he hopes to begin renovations on the 25,000-square-foot space in the next month.

“We’re going to be doing a big refurbishment of the building, including new roofs and new electric service,” Mr. Butler said. “The Woolworth’s side hasn’t been used for 15 or 20 years now and how we re-do the other side will really depend on the new tenants.”

Woolworth went out of business in 1997, and the building has been empty since then. It was purchased for about $4 million in 2006 by the Manhattan-based Apollo Real Estate Advisors investment group when that company proposed a $500 million downtown revitalization project that since fell apart.

Mr. Butler, who has been involved in urban revitalization projects in New York City, said his company’s purchase of the building is evidence of the long-beleaguered downtown area’s growing value.

“I think Riverhead is on the ups,” he said. “We wouldn’t have bought the building if it wasn’t. I think it’s going to be a nice place to live and the more people that we get living downtown, the better. The town did a great job revitalizing the waterfront. There’s already some yoga, some new restaurants – the Suffolk Theater is going to be opening next door – so it’s going to be great.”

About 20 apartments are planned for the building’s upstairs, which would be a mix of mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments, as well as some two-bedroom apartments, Mr. Butler said.

He sees the new apartments as an ideal place for young people who are trying to get their lives started on the North Fork.

“It’s going to be a great place for the younger generation of young professionals that don’t want to live in a basement,” he said in an interview Thursday. “And if they have a car there’s plenty of parking in the back.”

The building will be able to fit between one and five retail tenants.

“It’s probably going to be restaurant and stores, but it’s hard to tell at this point,” Mr. Butler said. “It’s a great space for entertainment-related things because it’s got huge, huge ceilings.”

The high ceilings make it an ideal space for a food market or for indoor recreation purposes, he said.

He hopes to begin renovations of the downstairs in a month, though a time frame is uncertain

The closing comes more than a week after the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency approved tiered tax breaks for the project, which require Mr. Butler reach construction thresholds before certain abatements kick in.

In addition to the purchase of the Woolworth’s building, more downtown developments are already in the works, the News-Review has learned.

Lucky Liquor is slated to open next to Griffing Hardware with one upstairs apartment on West Main Street, health supplement supply franchise, called Herbalife, planned for a storefront just to the west of the new liquor store.


02/14/13 5:00pm
02/14/2013 5:00 PM
Riverhead woolworth

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The former Woolworth building on East Main Street.

The Riverhead Industrial Development Agency last week approved a series of tax incentives for the redevelopment of the former Woolworth building in downtown Riverhead.

The tiered schedule requires the developer to meet certain goals before property tax incentives can be awarded.

Michael Butler of Sag Harbor, managing partner of Woolworth Revitalization LLC, is in contract to buy the mostly vacant building and restore it as a mixed-use development with apartments on the second floor and retail space on the ground level.

The building, which has been proposed for a multiplex movie theatre on several occasions — only to see those plans later fall apart — has been largely vacant since Woolworth left in 1997, save for some small shops in the building’s eastern end.

The IDA’s standard tax incentive involves exemptions on county mortgage recording tax, exemptions on sales tax for building materials and property tax exemptions on the value of the improvements to a property that start at 50 percent and decrease by 5 percent each year over 10 years.

But with the Woolworth project, the IDA will be eventually giving a 100 percent property tax reduction, requiring the applicant work up to that level by meeting certain benchmarks before those reductions are awarded. The property tax reductions apply only to improvements made to the property, so that the taxes will not be lower than what they currently are.

The approval is worded such that the quicker the job is finished, the sooner the 100 percent reduction is achieved.

“I think that’s excellent, to put benchmarks in for developers to attain and then, if they don’t attain them, they don’t get the benefits,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said in an interview about the IDA approval.

“My position has always been that the only two places that should be getting IDA benefits in this town are downtown Riverhead and EPCAL [Enterprise Park at Calverton],” he said, adding that having apartments downtown will create foot traffic, which will draw more businesses to the area.

The breakdown of the property tax reduction benchmarks is as follows, according to the IDA’s approval resolution:

• To get the 25 percent reduction, the applicant must complete the asbestos removal and demolition of the building.

• To get the 50 percent reduction in property taxes, the applicant must get permits and approvals for renovation of both the building’s facade and a 2,000-square-foot retail space on the ground floor.

• For the 75 percent reduction, the applicant must achieve “substantial completion” of ground floor renovations so that the sites are “clean and painted, with electrical service, lighting, flooring and ready-for-tenant specific improvements.”

• Finally, to receive the 100 percent property tax reduction, all site plan and building department approvals must be obtained for the second-floor apartments, on which construction must have begun.

The IDA approval, granted last Monday, was unanimous.

“We’re rebuilding Main Street and rebuilding Riverhead,” said IDA member Paul Thompson.


01/08/13 8:00am
01/08/2013 8:00 AM
PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Architect Martin Sendlewski presents the plans for the Woolworth building at the Riverhead IDA meeting Monday evening.

PAUL SQUIRE PHOTO | Architect Martin Sendlewski presents the plans for the Woolworth building at the Riverhead IDA meeting Monday evening.

Riverhead Industrial Development Agency members discussed setting milestones to determine what tax breaks to grant developers — and when to grant them — of East Main Street’s largely vacant Woolworth building after a public hearing on the project Monday evening.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The Woolworth building has been largely vacant since the former five-and-dime store closed in 1997.

Representatives for Woolworth Revitalization LLC, the company behind the proposal, said the redeveloped building would be a mixed-use construction project with storefronts on the first floor and about 20 apartments on the second floor.

“We’re very excited about this project,” said Sag Harbor resident Michael Butler, who is heading the project. “We think it’s going to be a very good one for downtown Riverhead.”

The ground floor of the building would feature 25,000 square feet of commercial space, with 15,000 square feet of studio and one-bedroom apartments on the second floor, he said.

Mr. Butler said the group is looking to invest between $5 million and $6 million into the long-neglected building to renovate and make repairs.

Riverhead architect Martin Sendlewski, who presented plans of what the interior space would include, said it would be cheaper to renovate the building than tear it down, despite its current state.

The group requested the IDA grant tax breaks on sales, mortgage and real estate taxes in order to keep yearly costs down while renovating the structure.

After the hearing was closed, board members agreed the project was “vital” for Riverhead, and discussed setting up milestones that would need to be met for the developers to qualify for tax breaks.

One hypothetical milestone would give a 25 percent abatement on the difference between total assessed and land value if the developers had a renovated commercial space available.

That abatement would increase up to 100 percent if the construction were to progress to having apartments ready on the second floor.

“If he doesn’t get anything done, he gets no abatement,” said IDA executive director Tracy Stark-James. Members of the board said they supported the idea.

“This is perfect because we’re not swinging in the breeze on it,” said board member Dawn Thomas.

Representatives from the Woolworth developers and the IDA will meet to negotiate the exact milestones. The group said they expect to close on the property in February and begin construction work right away.

While no one spoke at the public hearing, representatives from the Suffolk Theater attended to learn more about the proposed project next-door.

“I think there’s a lot of promise here,” said Suffolk Theater executive director Bob Spiotto after the hearing.


12/04/12 8:01am
12/04/2012 8:01 AM
Downtown Riverhead, East Main Street, Riverhead IDA

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The former Woolworth building on East Main Street has been largely empty since the old five-and-dime chain closed in 1997.

One of downtown Riverhead’s largest vacant buildings is slated to be renovated into new shops and apartments, but the developer is also seeking tax exemptions and other incentives from the town Industrial Development Agency.

Michael Butler of Sag Harbor, under the corporate name Woolworth Revitalization LLC, is in contract to buy the vacant Woolworth building and  has applied to the IDA for tax help, according to IDA executive director Tracy Stark James.

An IDA public hearing on that request has been scheduled for Jan. 7 at 5 p.m. in Riverhead Town Hall.

Woolworth went out of business in 1997, and the building has been empty since then, although it was purchased by Manhattan-based Apollo Real Estate Advisors in 2006, when that company proposed a $500 million downtown revitalization project that called for a multiplex theater at the site, as well as stores, restaurants and apartments in other downtown buildings.

Apollo’s plan never came to fruition, but the group still owns the building, although it now goes by the name AREA Property Partners (AREA stands for Apollo Real Estate Advisors.)

Ms. Stark James said Mr. Butler is in contract to buy the building from Apollo and plans to gut the interior, but not demolish the structure.

“He’s basically planning to renovate it, with a new facade and potential housing above the Woolworth portion of the building,” she said. “He’s using the same exterior footprint, so there will be no additional building, just renovation of the interior.”

Woolworth Revitalization LLC proposes to use the building for retail, commercial, restaurant and office space on the first floor with apartments on the second floor, according to the IDA application.

The proposal also calls for the abatement of asbestos, new utility services, a new roof, and facade improvements.

The estimated cost of the project is $5.7 million, according to the application.

Ms. Stark James said Woolworth Revitalization LLC is asking for a freeze on the property taxes for 10 years, meaning the property owner would pay taxes based on  the assessed value of the property prior to renovating it, but would not pay taxes on the improvements for a 10-year period.

This is the same exemption that the Hyatt Hotel and Atlantis Marine World, as well as the Summerwind Apartments, received, although Atlantis received an additional 10-year extension.

In addition to the property tax incentive, Woolworth Revitalization LLC is seeking exemptions on sales tax for materials used in the project and on mortgage recording tax.

Mr. Butler could not immediately be reached for comment.

A year ago, developer Ron Parr sought to buy the building from Apollo and then lease it to Regal Cinemas, the nation’s largest movie theater chain, but that deal fell apart.

Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said that he called every major theater company in the country trying to get one to build a movie theater in the Woolworth building, or somewhere in downtown Riverhead, but to no avial.