More apartment buildings could be coming to downtown Riverhead

In recent years, many apartment buildings have been under construction or already built in downtown Riverhead.

And more may be coming.

Builder Ray Castranovo says he is proposing a four- or possibly five-story apartment building on a 0.12 acre site on 12 McDermott Ave., directly across from the 116-unit Riverview Lofts apartment complex under construction by Georgica Green Ventures.

Mr. Castranovo first proposed a five-story building on that same spot in 2005, and got site plan approval for four stories. The Town Board had extended that approval as far as 2014 before it said it wouldn’t grant any further extensions.

Mr. Castranovo said he was ready to move forward with construction when he bought the former International Order of Odd Fellows building on the corner of Roanoke Avenue and Second Street in 2014, and turned his attention to that building, where he is planning to build a “speakeasy” on the third (and top) floor as well as a stairway to the rooftop that will allow people to access the roof.

But now, he says, he is focusing again on the McDermott Avenue building.

He has not officially filed a site plan but he said he’s met with town officials and is planning a five-story building with retail and a cafe on the ground floor and three apartment units on each of the upper floors.

“The town is trying to steer me away from the fifth floor,” he said. “They said four would get approved quicker.”

The apartments would be market rate, he said, although he said the rents will match those of county affordable rental projects.

Meanwhile, both Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio have said on their weekly 1390 WRIV radio spots that a multi-floor apartment complex is being planned on the former site of Subway on East Main Street.

There is no site plan for such a project on file in Town Hall and building owner Phil Hancock said in an interview that “it’s all very premature. There’s nothing in ink yet.”

He did say that the property’s zone would allow a five-story apartment complex.

The Town Board voted to allow five-story apartments as part of its 2003 master plan update as a means to bring people downtown, which in turn would attract businesses.

However, when it comes to the Downtown Center-1 zone, which includes most of downtown Riverhead, a note reads: “Subsequent to the date of enactment of this article, upon the issuance of certificates of occupancy for 500 residential units,” residential units on upper floors will no longer be permitted.

Jeff Murphree, the town’s building and planning administrator, said the town is nearing the 500-unit cap on downtown apartments.

So far, approved downtown apartments include 52 units at Summerwind, 19 units at Woolworth Apartments, 45 units at Peconic Crossing and five units at Dark Horse, totaling 121 units. If Riverview Loft’s 116 units and Metro Group’s 177 units were included, the total would be 414.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio says individual apartments above stores should also be counted towards the 500-unit cap if they were built since the master plan was approved.

Because the determination is based on apartments with COs, and not on how many apartments are proposed, large projects like the 116-unit Riverview Lofts or the Metro Group’s 177-unit proposal on West Main Street don’t count toward the 500-unit cap yet.

Ms. Jens-Smith said the town doesn’t necessarily plan to reduce the number of apartments allowed downtown, but the Downtown Revitalization Committee is working on form-based zoning, and will likely put a proposal forward to reduce the number of floors permitted downtown.

That was a recommendation of the Brownfield Opportunity Area study from a few years ago, she said.

Form-based zoning allows projects based on what they look like or their size more so than what use is proposed, Ms. Jens-Smith said.

The town is also expecting the results of a parking study the town commissioned by the end of this month or the beginning of November, she said.

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Photo caption: 12 McDermott Ave. (Tim Gannon photo)