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Affordable apartments, medical offices proposed for Riverside

Southampton Town is seeking a $1 million grant from New York State to help two projects at sites in Riverside, one at the former Riverboat Diner and the other at Peconic Paddler.

The grant money would come from the state’s Restore New York Communities Initiatives program. The $1 million, if received, would be split evenly between the two projects, officials said.

The Restore New York Round 5 grants are intended for the demolition, rehabilitation, or reconstruction of vacant, abandoned, surplus and/or condemned commercial and/or residential buildings, and to help with the Riverside revitalization efforts, according to officials.

“The purpose of this funding is to focus on hamlets in need of revitalization,” said Southampton Town planning and development administrator Kyle Collins at a recent public hearing on the grant application.

A rendering of the proposed Riverside project at the former diner site.

Diner site

The Riverboat Diner site, previously a Howard Johnson’s, has been vacant for about 15 years.

Builder Paul Pawlowski of Mattituck, under the name 20 Riverleigh Corp., acquired the property in November from the Scheinberg Family Trust. He has filed a site plan application with Southampton Town seeking to build a two-story, 12,000-square-foot building. Both floors would comprise medical offices — representing 8,000 square feet — and workforce apartments — 4,000 square feet.

“It’s a good location,” Mr. Pawlowski said. “That area, I think, is moving forward as far as revitalization efforts. In our eyes, it’s a good area to get in now, and see it progress.”

Three years ago, Southampton Town appointed Renaissance Downtowns of Plainview as its “master developer” for the Riverside area, where it has developed new zoning and development standards, working with officials and residents under the name “Riverside Rediscovered.”

Mr. Pawlowski said he has spoken to those leading the revitalization efforts and they have been helpful.

“They are feeding us a good deal of information,” he said.

Town officials say the one thing holding up their Riverside redevelopment efforts is the lack of adequate wastewater treatment.

The town hopes to build a new sewage treatment plant to service the area, and also has looked into possibly connecting with Riverhead Town’s sewer district, which already serves the county buildings in Riverside.

Mr. Pawlowski said his project has enough sewer capacity under the current zoning regulations.

He hopes to begin and finish the project in 2018.

The Southampton Planning Board had scheduled a “pre-submission” hearing on the site plan for last Thursday but it was postponed due to a posting error.

Mr. Pawlowski said he’ll be back on the agenda in January and will go before the town Zoning Board of Appeals in February seeking a front yard setback variance.

The property is adjacent to the Riverside traffic circle, which is being expanded by the county.

Mr. Pawlowski said he is potentially considering additional projects in Riverside, although he hasn’t identified any locations yet.

“With the ongoing revitalization efforts, we feel it’s going to be a nice area,” he said.

Peconic Paddler plans

Not far from the diner property is the Peconic Paddler, which was sold to a group headed by New York City fireman Tom Fredette last summer.

Mr. Fredette hopes to connect to Riverhead Town’s sewer district, which he says is “10 steps from our property line.”

While he did make a formal request to Riverhead Town last September, no progress has been made yet.

In the interim, Mr. Fredette hopes to tear down the existing building and construct a larger one that would retain the recreation use of canoes and kayaks, while adding a food service business similar to a “burger shack,” he said.

That much can be built without additional sewer connections, he said.

If the sewer connection is approved, the long-range plan is to build a 4.5-story boutique hotel on the property.

So far, he has yet to formally submit an application to the town.

The hotel use, he said, “is something Southampton Town is encouraging.”

He hopes to continue the use of the Peconic Paddler through next summer and start construction on the new projects at the end of the summer season.

“We really want the Peconic Paddler to be a continued use forever,” he said.

Mr. Fredette said if he receives the grant he will start work on the smaller project first. However, without it he’ll wait for the sewer hookup and focus first on the hotel project.

“Without the grant, it’s not worth it to do without the full buildout,” he said.

Southampton Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he thinks the town is considering a plan to build a sewage treatment plant near the former drive-in theater site, to serve Riverside, rather than try to connect with Riverhead.

He said the former diner site “is a beautiful building. Hopefully that will set things into motion. There are some positive things going on, although maybe not as fast as people would like it to progress.”

Photo caption: Medical offices and apartments have been proposed for the abandoned Riverboat Diner property on the Riverside traffic circle. (Credit: Krysten Massa)

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