Mixed-use plans being mulled for downtown’s ‘Sears building’

Sears in Riverhead
TIM GANNON PHOTO | Sears closed its downtown Riverhead store in 2006.

The former Sears building in downtown Riverhead, which has been vacant since the national company left town in 2006, could soon have new life.

Representatives for the building’s owner, Riverhead Enterprises, have presented Supervisor Sean Walter with a “pre-submission” plan for the property that shows the building being replaced by a mixed-use development of retail stores and apartments.

The plan shows a five-story building with about 130 apartments, both one- and two-bedroom, and smaller storefronts on the first two floors.

But in an interview with the News-Review Monday, Riverhead Enterprises partner Sheldon Gordon downplayed the preliminary plan’s significance.

“We’ve had some preliminary discussions and we’re studying the project, but there’s nothing definitive yet,” he said.

Riverhead Enterprises had submitted site plan applications to redevelop the Sears building, and two other downtown buildings it owns, in the mid-2000s, when Riverhead Town’s newly adopted zoning and master plan called for 500 apartments in the downtown area. Nothing came of those applications.

Those earlier plans, which also called for stores and apartments, were filed around the time the Town Board was contemplating condemnation of those and other downtown buildings to advance Apollo Real Estate Advisors’ vision for downtown.

Neither the condemnation nor Apollo’s plans ever came to fruition.

Mr. Walter has stated frequently in recent months that 500 downtown apartments are too many and the Town Board will need to cut that number in half because there isn’t enough parking to accommodate that many apartments in the area. With the changes in mind, Mr. Gordon acknowledged time may be running out to submit an apartment plan for downtown.

Several apartment proposals have already been submitted or are moving forward, including the Summerwind Square project on Peconic Avenue, which is close to opening. Apartment projects are also proposed for the current site of the Long Island Science Center building on West Main Street and the former Woolworth building on East Main Street.

Mr. Sheldon said interest has been shown in the Sears building for uses other than apartments, although he didn’t want to discuss specifics.

“I think something will be done with it in the next few months,” he said.

Sears had occupied the downtown store for more than 40 years before closing in 2006, at about the time Sears merged with Kmart.

Sears products continue to be sold at the Riverhead Kmart store.

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