Developers purchase Woolworth land

Woolworth cops
Riverhead police officers Brian Clements and Chris Parkin in front of the Woolworth building Friday.

Downtown Riverhead’s former Woolworth building is changing hands today.

Woolworth Revitalization LLC’s managing partner, Michael Butler of Sag Harbor, told the News-Review Thursday that the $2.2 million closing is scheduled for Friday morning in NYC.

And he hopes to begin renovations on the 25,000-square-foot space in the next month.

“We’re going to be doing a big refurbishment of the building, including new roofs and new electric service,” Mr. Butler said. “The Woolworth’s side hasn’t been used for 15 or 20 years now and how we re-do the other side will really depend on the new tenants.”

Woolworth went out of business in 1997, and the building has been empty since then. It was purchased for about $4 million in 2006 by the Manhattan-based Apollo Real Estate Advisors investment group when that company proposed a $500 million downtown revitalization project that since fell apart.

Mr. Butler, who has been involved in urban revitalization projects in New York City, said his company’s purchase of the building is evidence of the long-beleaguered downtown area’s growing value.

“I think Riverhead is on the ups,” he said. “We wouldn’t have bought the building if it wasn’t. I think it’s going to be a nice place to live and the more people that we get living downtown, the better. The town did a great job revitalizing the waterfront. There’s already some yoga, some new restaurants – the Suffolk Theater is going to be opening next door – so it’s going to be great.”

About 20 apartments are planned for the building’s upstairs, which would be a mix of mostly studio and one-bedroom apartments, as well as some two-bedroom apartments, Mr. Butler said.

He sees the new apartments as an ideal place for young people who are trying to get their lives started on the North Fork.

“It’s going to be a great place for the younger generation of young professionals that don’t want to live in a basement,” he said in an interview Thursday. “And if they have a car there’s plenty of parking in the back.”

The building will be able to fit between one and five retail tenants.

“It’s probably going to be restaurant and stores, but it’s hard to tell at this point,” Mr. Butler said. “It’s a great space for entertainment-related things because it’s got huge, huge ceilings.”

The high ceilings make it an ideal space for a food market or for indoor recreation purposes, he said.

He hopes to begin renovations of the downstairs in a month, though a time frame is uncertain

The closing comes more than a week after the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency approved tiered tax breaks for the project, which require Mr. Butler reach construction thresholds before certain abatements kick in.

In addition to the purchase of the Woolworth’s building, more downtown developments are already in the works, the News-Review has learned.

Lucky Liquor is slated to open next to Griffing Hardware with one upstairs apartment on West Main Street, health supplement supply franchise, called Herbalife, planned for a storefront just to the west of the new liquor store.

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