Supe: Regal theater deal is dead for downtown Riverhead

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Supervisor Sean Walter had hoped Regal Cinemas would build at least an eight-screen multiplex at the site of the former Woolworth's.

After almost two years of behind-the-scenes negotiations, Regal Cinemas is no longer considering locating a multiplex  in downtown Riverhead, Supervisor Sean Walter revealed Wednesday night.

The town has been trying to get Regal, the largest movie theater chain in the country, to build a multiplex at the site of the former Woolworth’s building on East Main Street. Developer Ron Parr was in negotiations to buy that building from the Manhattan-based Apollo Real Estate Advisors — which itself had unsuccessfully tried to build a multiplex there several years ago — while Mr. Walter lobbied Regal to work with Parr to locate there.

Often over the past year, Mr. Walter has said publicly that the deal was “this close,” and held high hopes for the project.

But while taking questions at a Greater Calverton Civic Association meeting Wednesday night, Mr. Walter said: “At one point we had them at a point where they were very close to giving us what Ron Parr needed,” but Regal later dropped the price it would pay to lease the site after seeing demographic studies of the area.

“I thought they were just using it as a bargaining chip,” Mr. Walter said.

But they weren’t.

“So I cut them loose,” he added. “Now the game plan is to look for an independent movie theater operator.”

The supervisor said the area’s demographics are based on the entire 11901 zip code, which gives the impression there aren’t many people in Riverhead. But several large chain stores have reported that their Riverhead store is one of their best performing stores, he said. Regal had indicated it liked Route 58, but the town’s zoning doesn’t allow theaters anywhere but downtown, and officials say don’t want to change that, Mr. Walter added.

Mr. Walter said that, on a positive note, a long-stalled bowling alley project is moving forward, as the new owners of the half-built bowling alley on Main Road in Riverhead have applied for building permits and are hoping to be up and operating this spring.

The bowling alley, which Mr. Walter has said that, along with a movie theater, is one of the things he’s asked about most, has been in the pipeline for several years but the prior owner lost the property to foreclosure and now a new group headed by Jeffrey Rimland has taken it over and is proceeding.

The civic meeting was held at Riley Avenue Elementary School.

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Read more in the March 22 edition of the Riverhead News-Review newspaper.

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