Can Riverside get itself a grocery store?

09/10/2014 8:00 AM |
Riverside Rediscovered's new community liaison Siris Barrios, right, and Sean McLean of Renaissance Downtowns discussed plans to revitalize Riverside at Monday's meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, where residents said they'd like to see a grocery store in the area. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Riverside Rediscovered’s new community liaison Siris Barrios, right, and Sean McLean of Renaissance Downtowns discussed plans to revitalize Riverside at Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, where residents said they’d like to see a grocery store in the area. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

For years, people in Flanders and Riverside have tried to get a supermarket or grocery store to come to the area, with no success.

So, improve the neighborhood, and a grocery store will come.

That’s what the company hired to redevelop the blight-ridden hamlet of Riverside is hoping will happen. 

Now, as part of an ongoing effort to revitalize Riverside, planners are hoping to be able to show owners of grocery chains why they would want to build in the hamlet.

“We are hearing that a grocery store is very important to the people that show up to every one of these meetings,” said Sean McLean of Renaissance Downtowns, the firm Southampton Town hired as a master developer for Riverside.

“But now, we have to demonstrate to these stores that it’s very important to us and that it’s going to be worthwhile for them, and we have figure out a way to make that happen,” he said.

Mr. McLean, a Flanders resident, and Siris Barrios, the new community liaison hired for the “Riverside Rediscovered” plan, spoke at Monday’s meeting of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, where the issue of a supermarket or grocery store came up.

“Everybody would love to have a supermarket,” Mr. McLean said. “We have to drive seven miles in either direction to get to the nearest supermarket.”

But he said supermarket companies do demographic studies “before they even look at a place” and Riverside usually doesn’t interest them.

“The Flanders, Riverside and Northampton area has neither the income nor the population to support a grocery store,” Mr. McLean said.

He said Southampton Town changed the zoning to allow a supermarket to be built on a number of parcels in Riverside already, and it didn’t happen.

But that’s where the Riverside Rediscovered effort comes into play, he said.

“If they see redevelopment happening and if they believe that the zoning is happening, and the right mix of uses in the area is happening, they will definitely look here for a 12,000 to 15,000-square foot store.”

It’s all economics, he said.

“If the general economy said someone could make money by opening a grocery store here, it would already be here,” he said.

“They need to make $300 per square foot, per month in that grocery store in order to justify coming in. That would be $600,000 per month for a 20,000 square-foot grocery store. And $600,000 per month divided by the population of Flanders, Riverside, Northampton, and even Red Creek, and we’re not gonna get there.”

Mr. Mclean said while a large supermarket is not going to locate in Riverside, a smaller grocery store might.

Ms. Barrios said that while grocery store companies usually do demographic research on areas they are considering locating in, “we have the opportunity to, in a way, flip that,” and do the research first and then bring it to the grocery companies.

Mike Ghani, who owns the Flanders Deli, which is next to the David Crohan Community Center where FRNCA meets, said Monday that his property is 1.5 acres, zoned for Village Business, and is for sale.

“You can put your grocery store there,” he suggested.

Southampton Town Councilman Brad Bender, a former FRNCA president, said after the meeting that he doesn’t think Mr. Ghani’s property is big enough.

The area adjacent to Mr. Ghani’s store has recently seen a 7-Eleven approved and under construction and another four-store building, including a Subway store, proposed.

Mr. Ghani said in an interview that he had received town approval to build additional stores on his property several years ago, but he opted not to move forward with the plan following the death of his wife.

Renaissance Downtown’s contract with the town doesn’t result in the town paying them anything for their services. Instead, the only money Renaissance will make is through developing property in Riverside. The company hopes to work with private land owners to develop their land, and it also has the authority to develop some vacant parcels owned by the town.

Their plan calls for getting feedback from residents and property owners through the internet, face-to-face meetings and phone calls in order to determine what type of development people want to see in Riverside and determine whether it’s feasible.

Much of that work will be done by Ms. Barrios, who recently started working at Riverside Rediscovered’s office on Peconic Avenue.

People can go to riversiderediscovered.com and suggest what type of development they’d like to see in the hamlet, and people will campaign for and then vote for which ideas they like best, she said. The ones that are selected will be subjected to a feasibility study to see if they are possible, socially and economically.

“It’s crucial that we get your input,” Ms. Barrios said Monday. In addition to its web site and office, Riverside Rediscovered as a Facebook site and Twitter handle.

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