Pictured Above: The Southold Opera, soon to be the new home of Community Action Southold Town
Community Action Southold Town (CAST), which has been providing vital safety net services for residents of Southold for 55 years, has finally found a new permanent home and is in contract to purchase the former Southold Opera House on the Main Road in Southold.
The opera house opened in 2017 after opera singer Anne-Julia Audray and her husband, Olivier Chazareix, bought the former Southold United Methodist Church and renovated the building, which they put on the market in January after struggling through the performing arts closures of the pandemic.
Ms. Audray will be able to use the performance space, formerly the church sanctuary, for concerts 10 times per year for the next three years according to the contract, said CAST Executive Director Cathy Demeroto on April 26.
Ms. Demeroto said CAST is expecting to close on the $2.8 million transaction in September of this year and is currently fundraising to put down a substantial down payment on the purchase. CAST will require a mortgage to purchase the space.
“We went to take a look at it when it came on the market, and we were not expecting it to be renovated and have so much wonderful space to meet the needs for all our programs,” said Ms. Demeroto.
CAST, which provides a community food pantry, clothing and support services for people who need help with housing, utility bills and job training, has been operating out of rented houses zoned for business on Front Street in Greenport for decades, and is currently paying $2,700 per month in rent. The non-profit had been considering acquiring another former Methodist church on Main Street in Greenport, which was met with some backlash in the community.
The new location, in the middle of Southold’s business district, has plenty of parking and would not require variances to become CAST’s new home.
“After searching for an appropriate home for CAST for many years, this property is a dream realized, providing all we need to serve the North Fork community while also offering cultural and arts opportunities for all to enjoy,” said CAST Board President Marc Sokol.
“For decades, CAST has provided vital services to North Fork residents in need. I am excited that CAST will finally have a permanent home centrally located to meet the needs of the community,” agreed North Fork Suffolk County Legislator Al Krupski of Cutchogue.
The space in Southold, said Ms. Demeroto, is centrally located in Southold Town and better able to meet the needs of its clients. CAST will still be able to have a presence in Greenport Village thanks to a mobile food pantry van and an agreement with Most Holy Trinity Episcopal Church on Main Street in Greenport.
Ms. Demeroto said that, while Greenport has historically been home to the majority of CAST’s clients, 52 percent of CAST’s clients now live outside of Greenport, mostly to the west, as Greenport Village has rapidly gentrified. The need for CAST’s services, particularly the food pantry, have also soared during the pandemic.
The new location “is in the heart of Southold Town, with ample parking. We can have a client-choice food pantry, space for a sharing room and education programs, a kitchen for our culinary program, and we can have a community garden for the food pantry,” said Ms. Demeroto. “It’s also a beautiful event space for us to utilize and to allow our community partners and friends to use. It offers an opportunity for cultural and arts events and for the community in need.”
Ms. Demeroto added that the 9,000-square-foot building, which has a newly renovated commercial kitchen, also has a private room that can be used for intake of new clients, an important feature when working with people in need when they’re at their most vulnerable.
“We want to make sure we’re treating our clients with dignity and respect,” she said.
Ms. Demeroto said CAST would be open to partnering in the future with homeless outreach agencies like Maureen’s Haven, which runs overnight shelters at houses of worship throughout the East End in the winter, though no plans are yet in place to do so.
The opera house also has a dance studio in the basement that could be used for community programs.
“There are so many opportunities to consider. Everything is on the table to discuss,” said Ms. Demeroto. “We can have things like moms’ club groups, and have a real opportunity to bring the community together.”
Ms. Demeroto said CAST is expecting to launch a formal capital campaign for the purchase of the building later this year, and will be able to take its time moving its programming to the new space — the lease on its Greenport space runs through May of 2022.
“We’re so grateful to the community. CAST couldn’t meet the tremendous needs we have without the support of our wonderful local community,” said Ms. Demeroto.
Along with the move, CAST will be tweaking its name, becoming the Center for Advocacy, Support and Transformation.
“We look forward to finally opening our doors as the CAST Community Resource Center – continuing to work with our partners, friends and clients, while also meeting and serving new neighbors,” said Ms. Demeroto. “Even our name will take on new meaning.”