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Town moving ahead with 5-story apartment project downtown

rendering of the proposed Georgica Green apartments on East Main Street.

Four of the five Riverhead Town Board members said they’re prepared to approve the exterior elevations for the proposed five-story, 117-unit mixed use apartment project at the former McCabe’s site downtown. They no longer want to hear recommendations from the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission or its Architectural Review Board.

Georgica Green, the group behind the project, has purchased the former McCabes, or Dinosaur Walk Museum, property on East Main Street and McDermott Avenue as well as the former Gammon property at the south end of that road.

The group hopes to have a new restaurant on the riverfront portion of the property and another restaurant on East Main Street, toward the north.

Georgica Green president David Gallo and other representatives met with the Town Board at its work session Thursday to give an update on the status of the project. About 25 to 30 percent of the 117 apartment units will be market rate with the rest considered “workforce” housing.

“We believe it’s appropriate to design a building in the historic district that’s a clear 21st century building addition to the district, and not phony historic-ism,” said Stephen Jacobs, the architect on the project. “But it’s a building that should have some historic recall.”

“I love it,” Supervisor Sean Walter interjected. “I love red brick. When can we issue building permits?”

The project calls for 29 studio apartments, 60 one-bedroom apartments and 28 two-bedroom apartments, Mr. Jacobs said.

The project also is located in a historic district.

“You’ll have to pass a resolution to override the landmarks commission and the ARB,” Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said.

“No problem,” Mr. Walter responded. “Just get that resolution going.”

He said the ARB and the landmarks commission are advisory and the Town Board is not bound to follow their recommendations.

Mr. Jacobs said they have had some meetings with the landmarks commission already and have made some minor modifications to the plan at its suggestion.

“We feel the comments the landmarks commission made were appropriate,” Mr. Jacobs said. “We think this change was a positive one.”

The supervisor said he liked the original plan better.

When Mr. Walter asked the board if it wanted to approve the elevations of the project now, only Ms. Giglio objected.

“I think there’s still some discussions going back and forth the ARB,” she said.

“We’re not going to have any more discussions,” Mr. Walter said, indicating the project already has enough votes to move forward.

The ARB’s main concern, she said, was with having a “500-foot, five-story wall along McDermott Avenue.”

Mr. Jacobs said they tried to respond to that issue, but found that they get less rooms and greater expense by doing so.

“This is what the zoning calls for,” Mr. Walter said.

Councilman Tim Hubbard said he likes the design but he doesn’t think 60 parking spaces is enough.

Mr. Jacobs said they aren’t required to provide any because they are in the public parking district, which pays a tax for downtown parking lots. Despite this, they have provided 60 parking spaces underneath the proposed restaurant toward the north end of the property, which is on higher ground than the south end, which is in a flood zone, he said. They have proposed raising the ground floor of the project by four feet, he said.

“I was against doing this building without parking, and we put in every single parking space we could fit in,” Mr. Jacobs said.

Architect Gary Jacquemin, who is a member of both the ARB and the landmarks commission, was present at Thursday’s work session but did not speak.

The town’s Master Plan and zoning allows five-story buildings downtown, but cap the number of units permitted at 500.

Photo caption: A rendering of the proposed Georgica Green apartments on East Main Street.

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