The developer of a proposed 170-unit apartment complex at the former Sears site on East Main Street said he’ll provide far more parking spaces than the 88 originally proposed for the project.
Robert Muchnick of the Metro Group, who is under contract to buy the property from Riverhead Enterprises, told the Riverhead Business Improvement District Management Association Wednesday night that he would provide at least one parking space per unit, and possible more.
“I’m not going to cause any hardship in terms of parking for any of you,” he said.
Commercial developments within the town’s public parking district are not currently required to provide parking because property owners in the district pay a tax for the right to park there.
The district was created in the 1960s at a time when the commercial development was mostly stores and not apartments. The town has recently seen a number of apartment complexes built that provide no parking or far less parking than units.
The town is considering new rules that would require new apartment buildings to provide parking for its tenants.
“I understand the big thing is probably parking,” Mr. Muchnick told the BIDMA. “When I first started this, there was no requirement to provide any parking. And I understand that’s changing drastically so I’m in the midst of changing my design to incorporate a lot of parking.”
In addition to providing more parking, Mr. Muchnick said he is offering to pay the $165,000 needed to restripe and redesign the parking lot north of Main Street to provide 67 new spaces there.
Mr. Muchnick also said he may seek a variance from the town Zoning Board of Appeals to allow him to build parking spaces that are more narrow than the Town Code permits. This would turn the 88 spaces into 120 spaces, he said.
While all of the new apartments buildings in recent years in downtown Riverhead have been affordable or “workforce housing” rentals, Mr. Muchnick is hoping to build 100 percent market rate apartments.
Members of the BIDMA support that idea.
BIDMA president Steve Shaugher said every study he has seen on revitalizing downtowns indicates that market rate rentals are needed.
Mr. Muchnick said he would also like to charge for the parking.
He said if his tenants don’t want to pay for parking, residents of the adjacent Riverview Lofts apartments might. That project has 116 units and only provides 55 parking spaces.
If the rents for the apartment are sufficient he may not need to charge for parking, he said. He could also allow public use of the parking under the right circumstances, he said.
Mr. Muchnick is asking the BIDMA to write a letter of support for his project to the Town Board, which has the final say on the proposal.
BIDMA member Dee Muma said the tenants at the recently built Peconic Crossing apartments — which has 45 units but only 35 parking spaces — are taking the parking behind her restaurant at night.
“If you’re going to supply 1.1 or 1.2 parking spaces per unit … hooray!,” one BIDMA member said. “I don’t think we could ask for anything more.”
Parking at the proposed complex was the top concern for the Riverhead Planning Board during its Thursday afternoon meeting. Members were unaware of Mr. Muchnick’s verbal promise to the BID about adding more parking, which is not reflected in the site plan on file. Mr. Muchnick was not in attendance Thursday.
“There’s a shortage of parking in that area,” co-chair Ed Densieski said.
Mr. Densieski also said he didn’t like the proposed facade of the building. There were also concerns about how construction would be managed along with Riverview Lofts next door.
The Planning Board’s comments will be passed along to the Town Board as part of the SEQRA scoping process. [email protected]
WITH TARA SMITH
Photo caption: Robert Muchnick of the Metro Group, who is under contract to buy the property from Riverhead Enterprises, spoke at Wednesday’s BID meeting. (Tim Gannon photo)