Vacant building could become food market, production center

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The same developer who spearheaded development of the old Woolworth building in downtown Riverhead now has his sights set on another long-vacant building across the street.

Developer Michael Butler — whose Woolworth Revitalization project now houses apartments, retail space and Maximus gym — is interested in turning the former West Marine building on East Main Street into a roughly 9,500-square-foot food market and production center, though the developer said Friday he’s still “right at the beginning of the project.”

According to architectural renderings, the front of the building would be transformed into a nearly 4,650-square-foot market with space for 16 vendors, while the back would become a restaurant with more than 3,000 square feet of outdoor seating overlooking the Peconic Riverfront.

The center of the building could become a production center for farmers or others to create products, according to the plans. Mr. Butler was quick to stress that the building would not simply be a market.

“We’d have some actual people who are producing food,” he said. “It wouldn’t be just a farmer’s market, it would be more well rounded.”

Mr. Butler said he hopes to hold demonstrations in the building for visitors to see products being made.

“We want to make it an attraction for people to come all over the East End,” he said.

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At a work session Thursday morning, the Riverhead Town Board unanimously backed the idea, “strongly supporting” a resolution to include the project on an application for a Main Street grant that would send $500,000 to the proposed development.

Town Supervisor Sean Walter called the market and production center a “great project” for the town. The building, located near the Riverhead Diner & Grill, has been vacant since West Marine moved to Route 58 in 2011. Last year, the Long Island Science Center considered buying the property, but eventually decided to find another space instead.

“We’ve been trying to get somebody in that building for a long time,” Mr. Walter said. “That’s a very positive thing for downtown. [I] can’t wait to see it.”

(Photo credit: Michael Butler, courtesy renderings)

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