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Applicant for new Restaurant Depot in Riverhead outlines proposed improvements as part of development

The Restaurant Depot slated to open in the old Walmart location on Route 58 will bring between 40-60 permanent jobs to the area and the developers plan to contribute $9 million in capital improvements to the property.

The developers also are hopeful the Restaurant Depot will help lure a second co-tenant to anchor the Riverhead Plaza site.

“We are ready to take that next step in the revitalization of this center,” said William Kugelman, the director of construction & development for Phillips International, the management company of the property.

Mr. Kugelman was one of several speakers to discuss the project during a public hearing at Thursday night’s Riverhead Planning Board meeting. Phillips International first announced the plans for Restaurant Depot in November 2021.

Restaurant Depot will be open to the public and its wholesale business is geared toward restaurants, caterers and small business owners and organizations like a VFW or Little League, said Larry Cohen, the company’s chief operating officer. The store is laid out like a typical retailer and features a wide variety of food products. There’s no cooking done on-site.

The applicant, listed as Riverhead PGC, LLC, has a site plan application under review by the Planning Board for a number of improvements to the property. The main component is the demolition of the former garden center that was part of Walmart and the construction a five-bay truck loading dock in its place. It’s located on the southeast corner of the property.

“This will be a tenant of significance coming to the town,” said Charles Cuddy, the attorney for the applicant.

The proposed improvements include repaving the main entrance of the shopping center as well as the eastern portion of the parking lot, landscaping upgrades, new lighting, fencing improvements and facade improvements, a new roof on the building and HVAC improvements, Mr. Kugelman said.

Mr. Kugelman briefly discussed the challenge it took to find a tenant for the space, saying they had spoken to every major retailer and businesses in entertainment, distribution centers and medical facilities. A proposed deal that began in 2015 with Regal Cinema to bring a movie theater to the site ultimately fell through after two years when the cinema chain pulled out of the deal, he said. Walmart left the location in 2014 when it opened a newer, larger location farther west on Route 58.

The current building has about 121,000 square feet of vacant space plus there’s another 2,000 square feet of vacancies in smaller spaces in the plaza. Mr. Kugelman said about 55% of the center is currently vacant. The Restaurant Depot will be leasing just over 65,000 square feet.

“We are in the process of searching for a new co-anchor for the shopping center,” Mr. Kugelman said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations, but once you have a powerhouse like Restaurant Depot, the process gets a lot easier to attract and lock down another tenant.”

Andrew Kelly, a project manager and landscape architect with VHB Engineering, discussed sound mitigation efforts that are part of the plan following initial discussions with planning staff. He said there will be signage for no truck idling.

Tom Najdzion, who lives on Ostrander Avenue to the west of the shopping center, said he supported the new business coming to the site, but raised questions about increased traffic. Another resident who lives on Kings Drive to the south of the shopping center questioned the effectiveness of a sound barrier with trucks going in and out of the area.

The Planning Board voted to close the public hearing.