Riverhead hires firm for $47,500 EPCAL marketing study

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Undeveloped surrounds the already-developed industrial core at the 2,900-acre EPCAL property.

A second piece in the Riverhead Town Board’s plan to study what uses to allow at the Enterprise Park at Calverton was put into place Wednesday as the board voted unanimously to authorize Supervisor Sean Walter to enter into a contract with a firm to do a marketing study at the former Grumman plant property.

The $47,500 agreement is with RKG Associates of Dover, N.H., and calls for the firm “to collect and evaluate pertinent demographic, economic, and real estate market data to develop an updated comprehensive economic and market analysis for the Calverton site,” according to the contract.

The Town Board earlier this year hired Vanasse, Hangen Brustlin Inc. (VHB) of Massachusetts for $448,000 to oversee a “comprehensive re-use initiative” at the park, commonly referred to as EPCAL. The marketing study was part of that plan.

“We had two bids that came in on the market study,” Mr. Walter said. “VHB has evaluated both of the bids and the recommendation of VHB, according to our town attorney’s office, is to award it to RKG Associates.”

The supervisor has insisted that unless the town first does a comprehensive environmental study at EPCAL as well as a subdivision of the land there, no development will be allowed by the state to take place. The VHB study will address both of those areas.

RKG will look at both regional and local employment and labor market dynamics, real estate trends, building activity, business trends, what types of facilities companies are looking for as well as what lessons can be learned from other successful redevelopment projects at former military bases.

The cost for the marketing study comes in addition to the cost of the VHB study, bringing the total cost of the latest round of EPCAL studies to $495,500.

EPCAL was for years a Navy-owned site at which the Grumman corporation manufactured fighter planes. It was given to the town in 1998 and the town sold the 500-acre industrial core in 2001 to developer Jan Burman.

Since then, numerous plans to develop the rest of the site have been proposed and failed.

When Mr. Walter became supervisor in 2010, there were two large pending land sales at EPCAL that had been negotiated by his predecessor, Phil Cardinale. Both deals — Rechler Equity Partner’s proposal to buy 300 acres for $18 million in order to build an industrial park, and Riverhead Resorts’ proposal to buy 755 acres for $155 million to build a theme resort — fell apart this year, as Rechler sought to add housing to their plan and Resorts failed to meet town deadlines for payments.

Four of the five Town Board members visited a former military base that has been successfully redeveloped in Devens, Ma. earlier this year.

Councilman John Dunleavy, who was the only board member who voted against hiring VHB this winter, voted for RFG.

“I wasn’t in favor of this to begin with,” Mr. Dunleavy said Wednesday. “I just think that we had a reuse plan once and we didn’t seem to follow it and we’re doing another resuse study now and the Town Board has voted for it, so I’m going to have to go along with it and vote yes [on the marketing study].

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