Construction down for third year in Riverhead Town

Riverhead construction numbers
A building going up at Glass Greenhouse on the Main Road in Jamesport.

New home construction in Riverhead Town was down again in 2012 for a third consecutive year, and was less than half the number recorded in 2007, according to town building department statistics.

New commercial building stats also declined in 2012, but construction of new condo units increased, the stats show.

“The hope is that 2013 will be better,” said Mitch Pally, a realtor and executive director of the Long Island Builders Institute. “The economy seems to be getting a little better, and the economy and housing starts and sales seem to go together, so that’s the hope. 2012 was not a great year.”

New home construction is often considered a leading economic indicator.

There were 34 single family residence permits issued in 2012 along with five modular home permits and 14 permits for manufactured homes, according to town stats. The total, 53 permits, is still five less than the 58 new home permits issued in 2011, according to the statistics.

By comparison, there were 81 new home permits issued in 2010, 71 in 2009, 59 in 2008, 124 in 2007, 119 in 2006, 190 in 2005, 184 in 2004, 271 in 2003, 381 in 2002, and 217 in 2001, according to town records.

The overall number of building permits issued in 2012, including renovations and additions to existing homes, did increase, from 849 in 2011 to 874 last year.

Traditionally, when new home construction is down, renovations and other additions or alterations often increase.

Mr. Pally said the economy is down throughout Nassau and Suffolk counties, although he didn’t have any Island-wide statistics yet.

The number of permits for condominium units in Riverhead Town increased in 2012, from nine the previous year to 21. But that number pales in comparison to the number of new condo units built from 2002 to 2004, when the annual totals were 197, 262 and 182 respectively.

Permits for new commercial buildings dropped from 16 in 2011 to 4 in 2012, according to the town. By comparison, there were 33 new commercial buildings in 2003 and 28 in in 2002, which is around the time massive Riverhead Centre shopping complex opened on Route 58.

“It’s not surprising the stats are off,” said Peter Danowski, an attorney who often represents developers in Riverhead Town. “I don’t see any new housing coming on board unless it’s going to be affordable housing or workforce housing or government-sponsored housing where builders get loans that are sponsored by government. If there’s grant money or loan guarantees, then you might see some downtown Riverhead projects.”

“I think things are starting to get better,” Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter said. “I was hoping we would have the Costco building permit fully issued and the Walmart building permit fully issued by now. But apparently not.”

Costco is part of a new shopping center on Route 58 called Shops at Riverhead, and Walmart plans to relocate its Riverhead store to a new site just west of the Applebees restaurant.

Artist rendering of Costco Wholesale planned for Route 58.

Mr. Danowski, who represents the Costco project developers, said they need a clearing permit from the Town Board. They hope to break ground in the spring, he said.

“We were hoping to add some assessed valuation to the tax rolls for next year, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” Mr. Walter said, but he added that the Costco, Walmart and Saber Riverhead shopping centers, all on Route 58, all have site plan approvals.

“Hopefully, those three break ground this year,” he said.

There also are two new apartment projects proposed for downtown Riverhead, which the supervisor hopes to see break ground in 2013. Those are the recently proposed Blue River Estates, which would replace the building where the Long Island Science Center is located, and a new project to renovate the former Woolworth building into stores and apartments.

Mr. Walter said the town at some point will have to alter its zoning for downtown, which allows up to 500 apartment units.

He said there is not enough parking to have that many apartments downtown.

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