Atlantis hopes to open hotel in 2011

Workmen installing pilings last Thursday for the future Hyatt Place hotel at Atlantis Marine World on East Main Street in Riverhead. The hotel is expected to open June 2011.

The start of next summer could also mark the turning point in the decades-long descent of downtown Riverhead.

Atlantis Marine World is hoping to open its Hyatt Place hotel and new exhibit space by June 2011, Atlantis principal Jim Bissett told business and community leaders gathered recently at a Riverhead Chamber of Commerce event.

Work on the project adjacent to the existing East Main Street aquarium is already under way, he said, as crews have been banging some 550 pilings into the ground to stabilize the hotel’s future foundation.

Once complete, the Hyatt will contain 100 bedrooms, a banquet hall that can seat 400 and an additional 10,000 square feet of exhibit space, Mr. Bissett said during a presentation at the monthly “Eggs and Issues” chamber event at Polish Hall in Riverhead.

“This is very important to the longevity of the aquarium,” Mr. Bissett said, “to keep a newness to the aquarium.”

“We’ve been here 10 years and we’ve drawn more than 4 million people in that time,” he continued. “They like what we’re doing, but we know that to keep them coming back, we have to keep it fresh.”

Downtown businesses are embracing Atlantis’ plans.

“They should erect statues for those guys, as far as I’m concerned,” Anthony Meras of the Star Confectionery luncheonette on the corner of Main Street and Roanoke Avenue said later. He noted that whenever Atlantis is busy, his restaurant is busy.

He said the addition of the hotel and the added exhibit space should only help. “It’s going to be great,” he said. “Anytime you can capture some business, I’m all for it.”

Mr. Bissett said he has eliminated the proposed restaurant that was in earlier plans for the hotel due to the high number of restaurants already operating downtown.

The $25 million project is expected to create an additional 50 full-time jobs, according to Mr. Bissett, who said Atlantis now has about 200 full-time jobs during the peak season, twice what they had originally anticipated.

Atlantis is projecting a 65 percent year-round occupancy rate for the hotel. “That means 55,000 more people per year coming to Main Street; that’s going to have an impact,” he said.

Atlantis also plans on spending an additional $500,000 on marketing, and is hoping to tap into the New York City market, he said.

Atlantis has yet to get site plan approval for the project from the town, but has a foundation and site work permit. The 550 pilings are needed because the land was once swampland and is very unstable, Mr. Bissett said.

Atlantis also has all its county health department approvals, a process he said took several weeks.

The hotel will carry mid-range pricing, Mr. Bissett said. “We want to stay true to our base of young families, who don’t want to pay $500 for a room,” he said.

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