The Riverhead Town Board is proposing to sell several town-owned buildings and move a number of town offices into the former Kmart building on Route 58 and, as part of that proposal, is considering seeking appraisals for those buildings.
Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said the town will likely issue a request for proposals for commercial appraisers at its June 15 meeting.
“We need to enhance our Town Hall infrastructure and there exists a profound need to provide appropriate and safe services at the Riverhead Justice Court,” Ms. Aguiar said. “Consequently, repurposing an empty box store, which has sat dormant for years on Route 58, is a good approach. In addition, consolidating most services to one central location is most certainly cost effective.”
She said the town “will be in a better position to make sound decisions” after it receives the appraisals.
Kmart opened on Route 58 in 1995 but has been vacant since 2018.
“It might not cost us anything, since we’re going to sell those buildings,” Ms. Aguiar said.
The supervisor said the owners of the Kmart building, East End Commons LLC, first approached her when she took office in 2020 about repurposing the building as a possible courthouse.
“We are waiting to finalize some prices and terms with the broker,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard. “So right now, we’re going back and forth between different options, such as leases or leases with an option to buy.”
Councilman Frank Beyrodt said initial discussions have addressed leasing the building with an option to buy it.
According to Mr. Hubbard, if the deal goes through, the town would move many of its offices into the Kmart building.
It would sell the Osborn Avenue ambulance barn, the senior center on Shade Tree Lane in Aquebogue, the building and planning office on Howell Avenue and Town Hall West on Pulaski Street.
The Justice Court would move from the police building to the existing Town Hall and the police building could expand.
The town historian’s office, currently in rented space on East Main Street, would move into the Kmart building.
The parks office at Stotzky Park, the sewer department off Riverside Drive and the water district office on Pulaski Street would remain where they are.
The Kmart building is 109,000 square feet, Mr. Hubbard said.
“This gives us the room that we need,” he said. “Storage is a big issue, too. The town clerk, the tax receiver, the assessor, planning and building all need a lot of storage space.”
The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps, which has been looking for additional space for many years, would have a new ambulance barn toward the southwestern portion of the Kmart building, and the senior center would have an outdoor space near the former garden center, Mr. Hubbard said.
“I think we have to see if it all works out,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent. “I do think it’s a nice space and I like that it’s close to downtown.”
But she said the town needs to deal with the lack of space in the town justice court.
“As soon as I got into office, I saw the serious conditions in the justice court and the overcrowding,” Ms. Kent said. “The situation is dire in my book.”
The Town Board had considered turning the Armory building on Route 58 into a police and justice court headquarters. The property was given to the town at no cost, but officials later discovered it would cost too much to renovate.
The town is also prohibited from selling it.
“I think it’s a great idea,” Mr. Beyrodt said of the Kmart plan. “We can consolidate just about all the departments into one building and then subsequently sell off other properties and hopefully use the proceeds to pay for most of the transition. It’s a great idea.”
“It’s still in the preliminary stages,” Councilman Ken Rothwell said. “That’s just one potential avenue to follow. I think we’re still in the exploratory phase. Certainly no decisions have been made.”
But, he added, it’s clear that the town needs to expand its facilities.
The justice court, he said, is “out of room there.”