Five story, 170-unit apartment complex proposed at former Sears site

Former Sears building Riverhead

The former Sears property in downtown Riverhead could be developed with a five-story, 170-unit apartment complex that would feature a mix of affordable and market-rate rentals. 

The proposal comes from a group headed by Robert Muchnick of The Metro Group in Blue Point and developer Robert Sanborn of Irvington, N.Y.

The group is in contract to buy the property from Riverhead Enterprises, which demolished all of the structures on the land earlier this year.

Mr. Muchnick and his group made a presentation at a joint meeting of the Riverhead Town Landmarks Preservation Commission and Architectural Review Boards Thursday afternoon and got mostly favorable reviews.

The proposal, called simply 203-213 East Main Street for now, is immediately adjacent to another proposed five-story affordable apartment building. That project, from Georgica Green Ventures, calls for 117-units and a restaurant and retail space on the ground level.

“These are the two most important developments in Riverhead,” said Gary Jacquemin, a member of both the landmark’s commission and the ARB of those two proposals.

Architect Randolph Gerner showed renderings depicting two horseshoe-shaped buildings stretching from East Main Street to Heidi Behr Way with three approximately 60-foot wide “green spaces” or courtyards in between them. The northern most green space would contain a swimming pool for the residents of the apartments. The open part of the buildings is facing west, so there will not be a large wall facing the East End Arts property.

The developers are also proposing a 120-space parking garage on the lower level and nearly 4,000-square feet of retail. The total project is about 180,000 square feet and the developers have applied for state funding, according to Mr. Sandborn.

“We went out of our way to design a building that’s going to be beautiful and not just a box,” Mr. Muchnick told the board. “That is why we made the courtyards wider.”

Mr. Gerner said that by putting in the courtyards, they reduced the number of apartment units they could build.

ARB members had been concerned in the past about how a redeveloped Sears site would fit in with the East End Arts property to its immediate west and the Georgica Green project to its immediate east.

After seeing the Metro Group plans, ARB member Richard Wines said he’d like to see the Georgica Green property redesigned to look more like what Metro Group is proposing.

Board members also asked if the 15-foot path between the East End Arts property and Metro Group would remain open to the public as a walkway between East Main Street and the riverfront.

Mr. Muchnick said he believes the public will use it even if it is not meant to be a public walkway.

The project is expected to come back before the ARB and Landmarks commission at later dates. It will also need other approvals, such as site plan approval from the Town Board, before any work can start.

The property once housed the Sears store and three more buildings to the east, which had all been vacant for some time before they were demolished.

Metro Group and Georgica Green are two of three new apartment proposals in downtown Riverhead. The third one is Peconic Crossing, which would build 45 affordable apartment units in a five-story building on the site of the current Long Island Science Center building on West Main Street, which will be demolished, possibly in January.

The 52-unit Summerwind Square and the 19-unit Woolworth apartments, both of which are affordable rentals, were also both recently built and have been operating.

Town officials say their 2004 master plan calls for a cap of 500 new apartment units in downtown Riverhead. The proposed apartments added to the already built ones would bring the number of new apartments approved since master plan adoption at 403 units.

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