Real Estate

Real Estate: Work at downtown Riverhead Hyatt hums along

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Construction work on the fourth floor on the south side of the Hyatt Place hotel building Friday morning. Crews are preparing to add a fifth story.

Work on the $21 million Atlantis Marine World’s Hyatt Place hotel on Riverhead’s East Main Street is moving along as planned.

Atlantis Marine World general manager Bryan DeLuca said the 100-room hotel should be ready to open by the beginning of July.

Mr. DeLuca said Monday that work on the fourth floor of the five-story building began this week. “The fourth floor decking will be put up and then the blocks for the fifth floor will go up,” he said. “So, we’re making great progress.”

In addition to the hotel, the project will include a new exhibit area and a 350-seat banquet hall that will allow catered events to be held while the aquarium is open.

Steel framing for these two areas was installed Monday, according to Mr. DeLuca, who noted that between 75 and 100 construction workers are on the job at the site on any given day. He credited Petrocelli Construction Inc. of Ronkonkoma for keeping the project on time and on budget.

“Petrocelli Construction is a serious building organization,” Mr. DeLuca said. “We’re on a very tight schedule and everybody is working really well and everything is very efficient, timingwise.”

The new exhibit space will feature natural-history-related displays, which will change every one to two years. Among those being considered are “BODIES,” currently at South Street Seaport, an exhibit on butterflies and one on dinosaurs.

Currently, the aquarium considers its market to be only Suffolk and Nassau counties because people from New York City aren’t likely to come out for a one-day trip — and most area hotels get booked at peak tourist times, said Riverhead Supervisor Sean Walter.

The supervisor said the new hotel will be a vibrant attraction for Riverhead. For example, several new restaurants have been created or are in the works for downtown, he noted.

“This [project] is fantastic!” Mr. Walter added, noting that plans to build a 14-screen movie theater downtown and to remodel and convert the old Suffolk Theatre on Main Street into a live performance venue are also in the works. “What we’re going to have is an entertainment district downtown, where you’re going to go to dinner and a movie or dinner and a show, maybe stay at the hotel and go to Atlantis, so I think this hotel is just another very, very positive thing that supplements [what] we’re trying to create downtown.”

Mr. Walter noted that downtown Main Street has not lost any businesses in the last year and has gained roughly four new ones, including two restaurants.

“It’s a terrible thing to measure your success in 2010 by what hasn’t closed,” Mr. Walter said. “But, we’ve been very fortunate — to my knowledge — other than the one bar we wanted closed, which was Casa Rica, we haven’t lost any businesses on Main Street and that’s a good thing.”

Atlantis first received a 100 percent property tax abatement 10 years ago as an inducement to build in downtown Riverhead. That exemption expired in 2009, but in December of that year, the Industrial Development Agency extended the abatement another decade for the aquarium and granted an additional 10-year 100 percent property tax abatement for the new hotel.

The abatements apply only to town, school, county and fire district taxes and only to improvements that have been made to the property.

Atlantis still pays taxes to the sewer, parking, lighting, ambulance and business improvement taxing districts. Its 2009 tax bill came to $125,895, according to town records. Without the IDA exemption, the full tax bill for the aquarium would have been $502,594, said tax receiver Maryann Heilbrunn.

Atlantis also makes a payment in lieu of taxes to the town based on the value of the property before the hotel project was started. That payment, around $30,000 per year, gets distributed to the town, county and Riverhead Central School District, town officials said.