Regal Cinemas has got company in eyeing Main Street for theater

12/08/2011 1:10 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Sheldon Gordon of Riverhead Enterprises (right) says his group is pushing to develop its portfolio of downtown properties, most of which are vacant. Twin Forks Bike, now in Polish Town, just recently signed a lease with Riverhead Enterprises to relocate to East Main Street.

The owners of seven large and mostly empty buildings on the south side of East Main Street are talking with an independent theater company about coming to downtown Riverhead, all while undertaking a renewed push to help develop the area, company officials said.

Although the name of the theater company’s owner was not given to the News-Review, Supervisor Sean Walter said the company is “somewhat local” and has been in talks with the building owners, Riverhead Enterprises. This while Mr. Walter has been trying to facilitate a three-way deal among Apollo Real Estate Advisors, developer Ron Parr and Regal Cinemas to bring a cineplex to the former Woolworth property, which Apollo owns, on the north side of Main Street.

“Whether it’s Regal or this independent theater, I’m confident we’ll be getting a theater downtown,” Mr. Walter said, adding that it is unlikely two theaters would be coming to East Main Street.

Gary Epstein, a Riverhead Enterprises accountant, said in an interview last week that the company has already begun exploring the feasibility of bringing a movie theater to the south side of Main Street and has been in talks with an independent theater operator. But he said he believed the Regal talks were much farther along.

He also said his group would be willing to negotiate with Regal if the effort to build on the north side of the street fell through.

“With 100,000 square feet downtown, on the south side of Main Street, we certainly would be willing and able to accommodate a movie theater,” Mr. Epstein said.

Mr. Walter said the Regal deal would bring eight screens to town, while he was told the independent theater would have fewer screens.

Riverhead Enterprises is making a push to fill the rest of the available space in its portfolio of East Main Street buildings, many of which are now empty. The company — which has been criticized in the past by this newspaper and town officials for not doing more to sell the land or attract renters — is looking for tenants or developers for its seven buildings on either side of the East End Arts property.

The owner of Twin Forks Bicycle, currently in Polish Town, has just signed a lease for 5,400 square feet in downtown Riverhead, a partner in the company, Sheldon Gordon, told the News-Review.

He said the lease is set to start Jan. 1 but some work has to be done before Twin Forks can fully move in.

“The lease averages out to $7 a square foot over the first year,” Mr. Gordon said. “And if any other responsible tenant comes along, I’m going to make them an equivalently good deal.”
The bike shop’s lease includes a provision stating that if a developer does want to buy the building — formerly the home of Crave Computers, which closed in 2007 — Riverhead Enterprises “would give them a very substantial sum to relocate,” Mr. Gordon said.

“It covers ourselves and the town” if officials are courting a potential developer, he said of the lease agreement.

Riverhead Enterprises officials had pledged in writing during a meeting with Mr. Walter in Brooklyn this summer that they would be willing to work with any developer seeking interest in its properties, Mr. Epstein said.

“In order to kick-start the town’s revitalization, we would be willing to sell one of our development sites for a price that we may consider to be less than its market value,” he said, reading from the letter. “We would also entertain alternate details, including long-term land leases and equity in a development project.”

And Mr. Walter, who has said he’s against the use of eminent domain, hinted that the town may just be forced to do so if just one property owner in the area of the Riverhead Enterprises’ buildings doesn’t want to sell or is asking too much.

“…that’s a different story,” he said of the possibility of one building’s owner holding up a big project like a theater. “It’s not us buying out all of downtown for redevelopment.”

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