Closing date set for Summerwind; officials hope to cut ribbon next fall

COURTESY GRAPHIC | A visual of what the Summerwind project for downtown Riverhead will look like upon completion.

A Nov. 3 closing date has been set for a strip of land in downtown Riverhead that by this time next year, officials hope, will house the Summerwind Square affordable apartments and retail tower on Peconic Avenue.

Suffolk County will contribute $1.9 million toward the project, to be built along Peconic Avenue, replacing an empty lot, the old Club 91 building and a small building previously occupied by a barber shop, then a cigar store.

In return for the cash, approved in 2010, the county will require that the project’s 52 rental apartments remain “affordable” to residents living and working in Suffolk County for at least the next three decades, county officials said.

“[Many] of these will be one-bedroom apartments,” said county Legislator Ed Romaine (R-Center Moriches). “So we’re looking at singles or newly married couples. I think this is the ideal situation, because the apartments are going to spring some life into downtown; there’s going to be people living right downtown.

“And it’s going to be a plus-plus for the school district, because the land is ratable,” he said, explaining that the small apartments wouldn’t be a good fit for families with school age children.

The company behind the project, Epic Management, comprises town Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, local builder Ray Dickhoff, local architect Martin Sendlewski and commercial developer Wayne Steck, who has offices in Hauppauge.

The building plans call for 29 studio, 20 one-bedroom and three two-bedroom flats, as well as 8,000 square feet of retail space, company officials said.

“We’re very excited,” said Ms. Giglio. “We think this is going to be a great addition to downtown.”

Although the project won town approvals before she was elected, Ms. Giglio said she had to “step away” as the plans moved forward with the town and even the county.

“Ray Dickhoff was the one going to the town officials saying we need help,” she said. “But this supervisor and his office were instrumental in pushing this forward.” She also noted that County Executive Steve Levy has a “been a champion of the workforce housing program” and was due a large amount of credit for pushing the project along.

“I want to thank Steve Levy for this project and his faith in downtown Riverhead,” she said. “His staff has been helpful, courteous and an absolute pleasure to work with.”

Company officials emphasized that the project couldn’t happen without Mr. Levy and the county Office of Economic Development and Workforce Housing.

“This workforce housing program has helped to revitalize Patchogue, Bay Shore and now they’re proposing a project in Huntington Station,” Ms. Giglio said. “The idea is to liven up downtown areas by infiltrating them with people.”

Mr. Romaine said the project will also help create some temporary construction jobs.

“They’re going to break ground, and come this time next year we should be cutting a ribbon,” he said.

The county is buying the properties through the Hauppauge-based Long Island Partnership for Housing, because New York State law does not allow the county to be in the housing business, officials said.

Explaining how the process works, Diana Weir of the Long Island Partnership for Housing said the county will purchase the land from the developers through the not-for-profit group and then sell it right back to them.

“We’re in the loop, but the developer ultimately owns the land,” she said. “Then we’re on board to make sure they are complying with the terms of the grant to keep the rentals affordable and to target income levels.

“We will work with the town and the developer to set up a lottery for the apartments,” Ms. Weir said, “and once that is done we will start working through the list and get people qualified to get into the apartments. It’s exciting. It’s going to be great for Riverhead.”

She said the county grant requires that half the units be targeted to people making no more than 80 percent of the area’s median annual income, which for a family of two is currently $67,900. A three-person household can earn no more than $76,400, Epic Management officials later added.

The other half of the units are targeted to people earning up to — but no more than — 120 percent of the median income, which currently works out to $101,000 annually for a family of two.

For an individual, the 80 and 120 percent income figures work out to about $59,000 and $89,000, respectively.

“That’s kind of the target market we’re looking at, and we figured that a lot of working people will qualify,” Ms. weir said.

When asked about any minimum income requirements, she said, “They just have to be able to afford the rent.”

Renters will be required to prove income and undergo credit and criminal background checks, she said.

Company officials said that with the help of the workforce housing program, the “group will be able to offer 18 units at $10,860 per year, eight units at $12,504 per year, 11 units at $13,644, 12 units at $15,720 and three units at $18,708. Those charges will include heat.

The Long Island Housing Partnership currently has 3,800 requests for workforce housing throughout Suffolk County, with 219 people specifically requesting the downtown Riverhead area. Riverhead residents will get first preference for the Summerwind project, officials said

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