A dream to restore an 1894 Queen Anne-style building at the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue in Greenport may have taken a step closer towards coming true.
Property owner Andrew Aurichio of Goldin Furniture has submitted an application to renovate the historic Greenport Auditorium into a “year-round vibrant theater and welcoming community hub.” The application outlines a vision for a “classic general store” showcasing products from North Fork artisans, a family-friendly cafe and “eclectic community and arts programming for all ages to enrich and delight.”
The renovation would renew “old traditions — to once again host the Fire [Department] ball perhaps” and establish “new partnerships and annual seasonal village events, all under the roof of a lovingly restored historic 1894 Greenport Auditorium, updated to be fully accessible to all, with a warm welcome for our entire community,” the application says.
The property was listed for sale in August, but a real estate agent said it’s been temporarily taken off the market. She declined to elaborate further. Mr. Aurichio and project representative Lucy Barnes also said they could not share more information at this time.
A group headed by Alex Aurichio, the brother of Andrew, had hoped to buy and restore the auditorium, The Suffolk Times reported in 2019. He founded a nonprofit called Greenport Auditorium Inc. dedicated to preserving the building. At the time, he estimated the cost of acquiring and restoring the project could range between $4 million and $10 million. Reached by phone Tuesday, Alex said he is not involved in the project.
The theater was built by Sarah Adams, a community leader and suffragette, in 1894, and could accommodate up to 700 guests. The building fell into disrepair after the Great Hurricane of 1938 and sat vacant for a few years, before turning into a furniture store. Preservation Long Island has listed the auditorium as an “endangered historic place” on Long Island.
According to the application, the proposed general store is aimed to fill the gap left by “the much-loved Arcade store.”
“Our economy has shifted due to COVID — it has fundamentally changed the way we live and work. But people still need community, they need a place to keep in touch with their neighbors year-round, and they crave a ‘cozy’ neighborhood retail experience that you cannot get at a mall,” the application says.
The cafe as planned will offer baked goods, hot drinks and “grab and go” prepared foods. The application notes plans for “thoughtful touches” to make the space welcoming for all ages, such as Greenport history-themed coloring books and books highlighting the village’s maritime culture and architecture.
There’s also plans to commission a local artist to paint a mural celebrating Greenport’s heyday as a whaling village in the 19th century. Flexible seating may be available in the theater and garden “according to seasons and needs,” and community events might include knitting clubs, trivia nights and book clubs.
“Our goal is to bring back a vibrant cultural and community venue, hosting live performances, cabaret, dance, films, exhibitions, readings, etc., hosting civic groups and clubs within a carefully preserved theater interior that retains the charm of architect George Frick’s original interior design and the structural integrity of master builder Charles Corwin,” the application says. “With the support of the community, we hope to complete the restoration project in time to celebrate the 130th anniversary of the Greenport Auditorium in 2024.”
ADA-compliant bathrooms would be included in a new building adjacent to the auditorium, in the garden. The new building as planned would emulate a “winter garden orangerie, or ‘Glasshouse,’ ” to provide a sunny, winter event venue and a space to grow herbs and plants year round. The greenhouse, garden and activities would be designed to be wheelchair- and stroller-friendly.
The application highlights a desire to meet community needs and wants, with the “theater, cafe, garden, glasshouse and [second] floor studios” serving as “flexible multi-use year-round venues for community-oriented organizations,” talk series and fundraisers, among other things. The application also outlines a vision for youth workshops.
Ms. Barnes said at a pre-submission conference with the Greenport planning board last Wednesday that the goal is to keep the interior of the auditorium as intact as possible. She has been working closely with Preservation Long Island, she said, who has been helpful in pointing towards other similar projects and “giving us ideas as to how to find a solution that works for everybody.”
The Aurichio family has kept everything intact, she emphasized, and she’d “like to put it all back in the right place if possible.” She’s planning the center as “more of a day-time space” and intends to pursue landmark status for the site.
“I just want to make somewhere that’s really accessible and welcoming to everyone, and so people don’t feel like they can’t go somewhere because they have their families with them,” said Ms. Barnes, who has six children.
Greenport planning board member Trisha Hammes said the idea of the auditorium’s revival is “very exciting” and the applicants have “some great ideas,” although it does seem to be “very much still in that conceptual stage.”
“I’m looking forward to working with you and seeing how it develops,” she said, noting the application needs more detail. If it comes back to the planning board for approval, it may “need to be a little bit more fine-tuned than kind of a community hub-type thing.”