01/15/14 11:16am
01/15/2014 11:16 AM
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The new Walmart on Route 58 features a fresh produce section.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | The new Walmart on Route 58 features a fresh produce section.

After years of development, the new Walmart on the western end of Route 58 in Riverhead celebrated its grand opening Wednesday morning.

The new store, which features a Subway restaurant and an expanded line of groceries, is more than 30,000 square feet larger than the former Walmart located further east, also on Route 58. The former Walmart is now officially closed.

“We’re happy that Walmart is investing in the town of Riverhead, and it’s a beautiful brand new building,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter. “Riverhead is a shopping district, pulling from Montauk to Orient Point to Brookhaven. Thousands of people will visit this Walmart and have the opportunity to see what Riverhead is all about.”

As part of its launch, Walmart presented $11,500 in grants to local non-profits, including Southold Troop 6, Parents’ Association of Riley Avenue and Suffolk County Sheriff’s office among others.

Walmart store manager Craig Winkler gives a speech at the new store Tuesday evening.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO  |  Walmart store manager Craig Winkler gives a speech at the new store Tuesday evening.

Though originally planned to be a Walmart Supercenter, a Walmart spokeswoman confirmed last week the new location is a regular discount store. Supercenters typically include full-service grocery stores with delis, bakeries and sometimes hair salons.

Plans for the relocated Walmart stem from 2007, the year Riverhead Town approved initial building plans. That approval was challenged in court in two separate lawsuits, both of which were dismissed in May 2009.

Walmart will continue its grand opening celebrations in Riverhead this Saturday with its “Big Family Welcome” from noon to 3 p.m. During the event, customers will have the chance to meet store manager Craig Winkler and participate in activities like face panting, cupcake decorating and free food samples.

[email protected]

01/12/14 8:00am
01/12/2014 8:00 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Vacant land is fast disappearing on Route 58. Irwin Garsten owns the above piece of property, just east of the Hudson Savings Bank building, where he has a site plan application for a shopping center.

While Riverhead Town officials have for years tried to bring new stores to downtown Riverhead, the developers and owners of large retail complexes continue to flock to Route 58, as evidenced most clearly by the new Walmart and Costco rising on the west side of the road.

To the east, there’s new set of medical and professional buildings. And even more shopping plazas are on the way.

Route 58 — or Riverhead’s tax base, as the town supervisor calls it — follows a different pattern from the downtown core, which is known more for its local restaurants and “redevelopment” efforts. This contrast has led some to complain of “overdevelopment” on Route 58.

But is it even fair to compare the two?

“It’s a different kind of animal,” said realtor Larry Oxman, who is also a member of the downtown Riverhead Business Improvement District’s management association.

Mr. Oxman said that although downtown is generating a lot of interest, developers of large retail stores continue to want locations on Route 58.

But building there comes at a price.

The rent on downtown leases is usually about half what a business owner would pay for a comparable property on Route 58, and downtown businesses pay less in common area maintenance costs because downtown is in a public parking district, said Mr. Oxman, adding that he’s representing two Route 58 properties currently for sale, both of which are getting a lot of interest.

While critics have decried the abundance of big box stores as a loss of local character, the buildings keep on coming, lured by large parking areas and proximity to other big-name retailers, such as Tanger Outlets, the thoroughfare’s anchor tenant, so to speak.

NEW PROJECTS

A new medical office complex is under construction at the intersection of Route 58 and Northville Turnpike.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The new, larger Walmart on Route 58 near Tanger Outlets is slated to open Jan. 15. Even though the improvements on the property have yet to be fully assessed, the property owners will be paying $124,928 in taxes for 2014.

Walmart, Fortune 500’s largest retailer nationwide, will soon vacate its current 120,000-square-foot space near Northville Turnpike and move into a 170,000-square-foot store directly across from the entrance to Tanger.

The Costco warehouse store that will sit just east of the new Walmart already has a building in place with the store’s name on it. It is not expected to open until later this year, as road and infrastructure work have yet to be completed.

The new Saber-Riverhead shopping center across from Costco already has several open stores, including Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops and Five Below.

So is there anywhere left to build on Route 58?

Yes indeed; in fact, a few proposals are already in the hopper.

The 12-acre property between Hudson City Savings Bank and the town highway yard is owned by Apple Honda’s Irwin Garsten, who has submitted a site plan application to build a 64,000-square-foot shopping center there.

The owner of the 1.5-acre lot at the southwest corner of Route 58 and Kroemer Avenue, Barclay Ehler, has a site plan in place to build a 14,400-square-foot retail store there. Once work begins, the county Department of Public Works plans to take part of that property to realign the intersection.

The former Rolle Brothers farm equipment site just east of Ostrander Avenue also is being proposed for development by owner Richard Israel, who hopes to create restaurants and retails stores there.

And Browning Hotel Properties plans to build a second hotel next to the 114-room Hilton Garden Inn it owns on the north side of Route 58, across from Tanger Outlets. The second hotel would be a 140-room Marriott Residence Inn, according to owner Lee Browning, who said he plans to file a site plan for the new hotel soon.

THE COSTS

According to numbers on Riverhead Town’s tax roll for this year, commercial properties on Route 58 will pay a combined total of just over $14 million in property taxes in 2014.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The owners of the Costco site are paying $431,069 this year in property taxes.

The biggest contributors are Tanger Outlets, which will pay $4.3 million in property taxes, and Riverhead Centre, which will pay $1.5 million, including school, town and other taxes.

Supervisor Sean Walter has said that about $750,000 in property taxes will be added to the tax rolls next year following the completion of the Route 58 projects currently under construction — but even so, those properties are already paying pretty hefty tax bills.

Owners of Costco site are paying $431,069 this year, while the owners of the new Walmart property are on the hook for $124,928 in taxes.

The Saber-Riverhead center, next door to Riverhead Raceway, is currently paying $108,761 in property taxes, according to town records.

The three new shopping centers rising on the west end of Route 58 all began construction after the March 1 “taxable status date,” which means they were assessed based on what was on the property as of March 1 last year, said Riverhead Town Assessor Mason Haas. Next year, they will likely be assessed at higher amounts, he said, as the projects should be closer to completion by March 1.

Compare this with downtown, where, for example, 12 properties owned by the Riverhead Enterprises property group collectively generate far less in taxes than the Route 58 Stop & Shop — $195,315 compared to $261,110.

While Route 58 is sometimes criticized as being overdeveloped, Supervisor Walter disagrees, noting that’s what the stretch was meant for.

“I think it’s a tremendous thing, and the overwhelming majority of residents that I speak with … say they love Route 58,” he said. “They love the fact that the stores are there, but you can go to a rural setting just a mile away. Riverhead has always been a shopping district for the East End, and that’s our tax base. Without the taxes we receive from stores on Route 58, everyone’s taxes would be a lot higher.”

[email protected]

12/03/13 10:10am
12/03/2013 10:10 AM

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | The back parking lot of the Christmas Tree Shops overlooks a clear view of Riverhead Raceway.

It appears the parking lot of the new Saber Riverhead shopping center — featuring Dick’s Sporting Goods and other stores — gives shoppers something extra: a free view of the high-speed action that will take place next door at Riverhead Raceway.

But not for long.

Management at the Route 58 Raceway plans to erect a new section of billboards to block the view of the southern portion of the track, which can be seen from the adjacent parking lot.

“It’s not going to be an open area,” said Joseph Arian, a marketing manager for the racetrack.

He said the raceway hopes to have the new billboards in place by April, when the 2014 racing season starts.

The idea is to offset the cost of the billboards through the advertisements carried on them, Mr. Arian said.

“We’re hoping the local businesses will want to be involved, especially because of all the new shopping in the area,” he said.

The 122,000-square-foot Saber Riverhead complex, where Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops and Five Below have already opened, is one of three new large shopping centers in the vicinity.

The 271,000-square-foot Shops at Riverhead center, which will have a Costco Warehouse as its anchor, is being constructed across the street from the raceway and a new 170,000-square-foot super Walmart store is being built just west of that.

It’s possible that some shoppers in the new stores, which include a Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar and grill, will be inspired to visit the racetrack as well, Mr. Arian said, since it will be just a short walk away.

07/16/13 1:25pm
07/16/2013 1:25 PM
Riverhead Town Board members and representatives from Saber Real Estate Advisors, LLC break ground at the new 119,000 square-foot shopping center on Route 58.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO  |  Riverhead Town Board members and representatives from Saber Real Estate Advisors, LLC break ground at the new 119,000-square-foot shopping center on Route 58.

A Route 58 shopping center that will include Dick’s Sporting Goods, Buffalo Wild Wings and Starbucks is inching closer toward completion later this year.

Officials held a groundbreaking ceremony today to commemorate the construction of the final businesses being built in the 119,000-square-foot Riverhead shopping center.

Representatives from Saber Real Estate Advisors, LLC and members of the Riverhead Town Board, including Town Supervisor Sean Walter and Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, attended the event.

The shopping center, which is adjacent to the Riverhead Raceway, will house Christmas Tree Shops, ALDI’s and Five Below. Construction is expected to be completed later this year. Dick’s Sporting Goods and Christmas Tree Shops will open in November and the remaining stores will open early next year, said John Zaher, president of Saber Real Estate Advisors.

Charles Kwon, who owns Buffalo Wild Wings franchises in Suffolk County and Connecticut, said the restaurant’s Riverhead opening will be his sixth overall.

“I’m probably the most excited about this location,” he said. “I anticipate it will be very successful.”

[email protected]

04/02/13 10:00am
04/02/2013 10:00 AM
COSTCO COURTESY DRAWING

COSTCO COURTESY DRAWING

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to grant a land-clearing permit today to the developers of a Route 58 shopping center that will feature a Costco wholesale store.

The 271,000-square-foot shopping center, called The Shops at Riverhead, would be the third-large shopping center to have begun construction in the past few months on the west end of Route 58. The applicant has said the project will be a “balanced cut and fill,” meaning that it will neither import nor export soil or sand for the project.

The Shops at Riverhead will be built on a 40-acre property that once housed Hazeltine, a defense manufacturer, and is owned by Heritage-Riverhead Retail Developers, which is a Connecticut company.

The developers haven’t identified any other tenants beside Costco, but they did convince the Town Board to change the zoning at the site to allow gas pumps at the Costco store back in early 2010.

The developers of this project agreed in 2012 to move the stores further away from homes in the nearby Foxwood Village development.

Across the street from it, another development called Saber Riverhead has already begun ground clearing for a 122,000-square-foot shopping center just east of Riverhead Raceway. It is slated to include Dick’s Sporting Goods, Christmas Tree Shops store, Buffalo Wild Wings and

a Starbucks store, according to the applicant, Martin Berger.

That project received site plan approval from the town Planning Board in November and permission for an importation/grading permit from the Town Board on Feb. 5. That permit allows for the importation of 200 cubic yards of soils in connection with the project.

The Town Board on March 5 granted an excavation permit to Headriver LLC — which is building a 170,000-square-foot Walmart just west of Applebee’s — that authorizes the importation of 4,615 cubic yard of soil and the exportation of 4,075 cubic yards of soil.

The Riverhead Town Board meeting starts at 2 p.m. Check back at riverheadnewsreview.com for live coverage of the meeting.

[email protected]

03/12/13 12:11pm
03/12/2013 12:11 PM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Boulder Creeks signs have been removed from the Route 58 building. Joe's Crab Shack is on its way.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The Boulder Creeks signs have been removed from the Route 58 building. Joe’s Crab Shack is on its way.

Renovation work has started on the former Boulder Creek restaurant building in Riverhead Centre, which is now on its ways to becoming a Joe’s Crab Shack restaurant.

Joe’s Crab Shack has a commercial demolition permit for the interior of the restaurant, which was issued Jan. 23, and a commercial alteration permit, which was issued Feb. 28.

The company has also have filed a site plan application for a facade alteration.

The Boulder Creek signs on the building have been removed.

Boulder Creek had been in Riverhead Centre since the Route 58 shopping center opened in 2003, but the restaurant closed in Oct. 11 and later auctioned off all its appliances, decor and utensils.

Joe’s Crab Shack is a national seafood chain owned by Houston-based Ignite Restaurant Group and was founded in 1991.

There are 127 locations nationwide, with one in Oceanside.

[email protected]

02/06/13 6:37pm
02/06/2013 6:37 PM

COURTESY FILE PHOTO | Riverhead supervisor Sean Walter shakes hands with Eagle Auto mall owner Mark Calisi after the Riverhead dealership donated a truck for the town’s Meals on Wheels program.

Eagle Auto Mall on Route 58 in Riverhead is appealing a federal judge’s ruling rejecting claims it made in a lawsuit against Chrysler, where Eagle and two upstate dealerships argued that the deals Chrysler was offering them were not the customary ones offered to other dealers seeking Chrysler franchises.

Eagle Auto Mall was one of 789 car dealers nationwide that lost their Chrysler franchises in 2009 after Chrysler filed for bankruptcy protection.

But since Chrysler had received federal bailout money, Congress set up an arbitration system by which Chrysler dealers who lost their dealerships could apply to get their franchises back.

Eagle Auto Mall was one of only about 15 dealerships nationwide to have their franchises awarded back. But Eagle owner Mark Calisi balked at the conditions Chrysler put on his ownership of the franchise, including requirements that he build a new facility for the exclusive display of Chrysler and Jeep vehicles. Eagle Auto Mall also sells Kia, Mazda and Volvos, in addition to Chryslers and Jeeps.

The company argued in court that the conditions Chrysler was imposing on them were not “customary and usual” conditions that Chrysler imposed on all of its franchisees.  But Chrysler disputed that argument in court, and U.S. District Court Judge Leonard Wexler on Jan. 24 agreed with them, and dismissed Eagle Auto Mall’s case.

The judge looked at the letters of intent sent to 135 Chrysler dealerships and found that the requirement for a new site was in 97 percent of the them, and that the two other contested requirements were in 90 percent and 83 percent of the letters, respectively.

Eagle Auto Mall appealed the ruling last week.

[email protected]