June 28, 2006

Green Light For Parking Proposal

The Vintage Group, which is hoping to construct a tiered parking garage, multiplex and retail shops on town land on Railroad Avenue, took a huge step forward last week.

The company, which has been working to bring its project to fruition for over three years, obtained a draft copy of a contract from the Town of Riverhead.

The contract, once signed by both parties, makes it possible for Vintage to move to the next stage: A Qualified and Eligible Sponsorship hearing, during which Vintage must prove it has the financial wherewithal to purchase the land from the town and develop the property.

John Burke, principal of the Vintage Group, says his company is looking to construct a multiplex atop a 1200 square foot tiered parking garage, complete with 40,000 square feet of retail space on Railroad Avenue. The parking garage, says Burke, will not only provide much-needed parking for downtown, but will also furnish parking for Orient Point Ferry passengers.

Those passengers, explained Burke, would be transported, via the North Fork Trolly Company, to the ferry, thus reducing traffic on the North Fork.

The town owns most of the land on which Burke is looking to develop his project. The property was condemned under the Kozakiewicz administration in 1993 at a cost of $3 million. The land was obtained by the town for the purpose of creating a parking lot, which has since been built on the property, to accommodate an influx of court parking.

The lot was also built as part of an agreement with Suffolk County. The town promised to provide 600 parking spots for the county courts. In return, the county agreed to expand the Supreme Court complex on Court Street. The enlargement is expected to aid in the downtown revitalization effort by bringing more people into town.

Burke says that since he needs the lot, he will assume the town's obligation to the county.

"We will provide the parking," said Burke, "at no taxpayer expense."

Taking on the town's obligation to provide parking is part of the draft contract with the town.

To do that, Burke says he will reach a separate agreement with the county to ensure the Town of Riverhead is relieved of all obligations.

"That is the biggest thing we need to do," said Burke.

But "there are many other contingencies in the contract," said Chris Kent, Riverhead's deputy town supervisor.

For example, the Vintage Group must pay market value for the property and must acquire eight other parcels that it needs to complete the proposed project.

The town is willing, said Kent, to assist with the condemnation of four of those parcels.

Burke says he is excited by the prospects, especially now with a draft contract in hand. It means that he is ahead of another proposed project that incorporates a multiplex.

"There is no room in this town for two multiplexes," said Burke.

Apollo Real Estate is proposing a multiplex on Main Street, as well as restaurants and retail shops. The developer was selected from a field of six to help revitalize downtown Riverhead. The company is in the process of working out a Master Developer Agreement with the town.

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