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Tax breaks sought for proposed mental health office in Riverhead

Solutions building in Riverhead

An 89-year-old building on Second Street best known for housing Dr. Hallock Luce’s former office is being proposed as an “incubator for mental health clinicians.”

Itai and Sagit Vishnia — the Setauket couple who hopes to provide office space to psychologists, social workers, mental health counselors and speech therapists — are asking the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency for a 10-year tax abatement on 100 percent of the value of improvements made to the structure. They are also seeking a sales tax exemption for materials used to renovate the building.

The IDA has planned a public hearing on the proposal for 5 p.m. Monday, Aug. 1. The building is located across the street from the former Riverhead firehouse.

In recent years, the IDA has awarded projects in downtown Riverhead the aforementioned decade-long 100 percent tax abatement. During its meeting Monday, IDA members questioned whether Second Street counts as downtown. Eventually they agreed it does, since board members provided similar benefits last year to the owner of the Second Street firehouse building, where a brewery is expected to open later this year.

Mr. Vishnia, who has called his concept “Solutions: Thinking in a New Space,” said he purchased a building in Smithtown in 2011 to launch a similar venture. It started when his wife, a licensed psychologist, was looking for office space. The couple now has about 19 clients in Smithtown.

The Riverhead building, which the Vishnias recently purchased, is expected to feature about 12 offices and one conference room, Mr. Vishnia said.

When asked why they need the IDA’s help, Ms. Vishnia said it takes time to build new businesses, as the Smithtown site only had about five tenants its first year.

“Operating cost is an issue,” Mr. Vishnia said. “Right now, we are paying for just holding the building vacant.”

The Vishnias estimate the Second Street facility will eventually bring about 300 clients per week to Riverhead. They plan to fully furnish the building and offer wireless internet and cleaning services, allowing clinicians to concentrate on their practices. In addition, they hope to offer services such as marketing, website creation, networking and billing.

The Vishnias estimate that restoring the building will cost about $800,000. They said renovations will be in keeping with guidelines for the town’s existing Second Street historic district, which the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission is seeking to add to the National Register of Historic Places.

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Photo: Office space for mental health professionals is proposed for this building on Second Street. (Credit: Tim Gannon)