Changes ahead for Route 58 business corridor

route 58
BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO Riverhead Bay Motors is building a new dealership for Suzuki Motors. And (in the background) the Suffolk Life building is being torn down to be replaced by a Lowe’s. It’s all part of a planned construction boom that will forever change the western portion of Route 58.

The western end of Route 58 in Riverhead will soon look vastly different, with several building projects either under way or in the pipeline.
The projects include a new Suzuki dealership, a new Lowe’s on the former Suffolk Life property, a new Walmart across from Tanger Outlet Center and, possibly, a new shopping center featuring a Costco on the former Hazeltine site across from Riverhead Raceway.
The Suzuki dealership is probably the smallest of these new projects, and also the furthest along.
The building began going up toward the end of summer on land adjacent to the Suffolk Life parking lot and across from Riverhead Centre.
Ron Siegel, general manager at Riverhead Bay Motors, said the company’s new Suzuki dealership was expected to finished by now, but a delay in a steel shipment has set the completion date back to around Dec. 15.
Riverhead Bay Motors only recently obtained a Suzuki franchise, which has so far been operating out of the Volkswagen dealership. The company has also been storing cars on land it leased from the Wilson family as well, Mr. Siegel said. In addition to Volkswagen and Suzuki, Riverhead Bay Motors also sells the Porsche and Subaru brands, Mr. Siegel said.
He said the west end of Route 58 is a good place to do business, especially with all the building projects now in the works.
“Even with the franchises we had, our business was 35 percent ahead of last year, and in a tough market,” he said. The location has easy access to the Long Island Expressway and soon will be located adjacent to a new Lowe’s and across the street from the existing Riverhead Centre complex, which has a Home Depot, Best Buy and other stores.
The recently widening of Route 58 also helps, Mr. Siegel said. “The traffic runs much smoother,” he said.
The new Lowe’s is being built in the old Suffolk Life building, where demolition is in progress. It will have 103,000 square feet of retail space and will create as many as 120 jobs, according to company spokesman Gerard Littlejohn. He said the demolition should be done by Feb. 2011 and the store should be open by the end of 2011.
The town Planning Board approved the Lowe’s site plan in June.
With the new Lowe’s comes a new traffic light, as the county Legislature overruled the county Department of Public Work’s rejection of a light at the Lowe’s site. The light will be at the entrance to the Suffolk Life property on Route 58 and will intersect with the easternmost entrance to Riverhead Centre.
Walmart, meanwhile, is proposing a new 170,000-square-foot store on 21 acres across from Tanger Outlet Center and accessible from Kroemer Avenue. Original approval of that project, proposed by a group called Headriver LLC, was tied up for many years in litigation brought by an employee union opposed to Walmart, and by the owner of the Riverhead shopping center where the existing 113,000-square-foot Walmart is located. The company plans to leave that site once the new building opens.
Those lawsuits were dismissed by a state appellate court in May, and Walmart’s application was deemed approved. Headriver is moving forward with the project.
Meanwhile, Costco, another large nationwide chain, is proposing to locate in the Shops at Riverhead development on the former Hazetine property, across from Riverhead Raceway and adjacent to Riverhead Auto Mall.
The Town Board in July approved a code amendment that made it possible for “warehouse clubs or wholesale clubs” to operate in the Destination Retail Center zone, and also permitted gasoline sales in that zone.
Costco had requested permission to include a gas fueling station at its proposed store, saying it would not come to Riverhead if it was denied. While the Town Board allowed the gas pumps, the site plan for the Shops at Riverhead has yet to be approved.
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