A brewery is one of the uses Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi says he’s considering for the Second Street firehouse, which he has offered to buy from Riverhead Town for $500,000.
But he says he doesn’t have a deal in place just yet; that’s just a use being considered.
“There’s a lot of things up in the air and nothing is concrete yet,” Mr. Castaldi told the News-Review. “I’ve got a lot of ideas and that is one of the things floating around.”
Mr. Castaldi didn’t identify the brewer, though a co-owner of a company called Long Beard Brewing later confirmed they were looking at the location.
If a brewer were to take up shop in the firehouse building, it would be the fourth craft brewery operation within the downtown and Polish Town areas. The three already up and running are Long Ireland Brewing, Moustache Brewing Co., and Crooked Ladder Brewing Company.
The Riverhead Town Board is pretty much depending on the $500,000 in revenue from the sale of the firehouse, along with another $275,000 from the sale of the historic, paint-chipped East Lawn building on East Main Street to balance its 2015 budget.
Mr. Castaldi also is interested in buying and restoring the East Lawn building.
“I am interested in saving historically significant buildings if they can be saved,” he said, indicating that both the East Lawn building and the firehouse will need a lot of work.
Mr. Castaldi owns a company that specializes in historic restorations and he and his wife were responsible for buying and restoring downtown’s Suffolk Theater.
“That’s what makes Riverhead nice,” he said. “That’s why my wife and I go up to New Hampshire and Vermont. We don’t drive up there to see Target and Home Depot. We go there for the nice little towns with history and buildings.”
Another use being considered for the firehouse is a Suffolk County Regional Agritourism Visitors Center. Riverhead Town has applied for grant money for that use, which could house an indoor farmers market. Mr. Castaldi had at one point proposed leasing the building to a Japanese company that runs interactive dinosaur theaters, but that deal fell apart when the Town Board majority briefly changed its mind about selling the building earlier this year.
The Town Board issued a request for proposals for the firehouse at the beginning of the year and Mr. Castaldi submitted one of only two bids the town received.
At the time, he proposed buying it the building for $375,000. The town is not including the parking lot in the sale.
The Town Board later decided to bump up the price to $500,000 and agreed to sell it to Mr. Castaldi, who, in turn, asked the board to consider rezoning the property to the more business-friendly “Downtown Center-1” zone, which covers most of downtown Main Street.
The board agreed to consider the rezoning and held a public hearing last Tuesday, at which only one person spoke. The rezoning would only apply to the firehouse property, which like most of Second Street, is zoned Downtown Center-4, a less intense use than DC-1.
The one speaker at the hearing, former Democratic supervisor candidate Angela DeVito, opposed the rezoning on the grounds that it would put a commercial use in a residential neighborhood.
Others, including Councilwoman Jodi Giglio and members of the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association, have said that rezoning only one property would be “spot zoning,” which is illegal.
Ms. Giglio feels the town should issue a new request for proposals if it is going to rezone the property.
Mr. Castaldi said his only interest is in restoring the building.
“I’m not an attorney,” he said of the zoning questions. “All I know is that the building needs a tremendous amount of work.”