The owners of one of Riverhead’s oldest shopping centers are going full steam ahead on plans to repurpose the shopping center with a new cineplex and restaurants, as they work with Regal Cinemas on a lease for the anchor store in the shopping center.
The former Caldor shopping center at the east end of Route 58, known as Riverhead Plaza, had most recently been home to Walmart, which shuttered this store and moved to the far west end of Route 58 three years ago. Soon after, King Kullen closed its store there.
The shopping center is now home to Gala Fresh supermarket, a dollar store, a pizza parlor, bagel and card stores and a few smaller shops.
Representatives from shopping center owner Philips International and attorney Charles Cuddy have been making the rounds of Riverhead’s boards in recent weeks going through the permitting process for the redevelopment, which would include a 10-screen cineplex and two auxiliary restaurants on separate building pads in the parking lot.
The existing department store portion of the property would be demolished and replaced with the 51,000-square-foot theater, which would have reclining seats.
The shopping center owners presented their plans to the Riverhead Town Board at its June 8 work session.
Philips International’s Director of Sales and Leasing Andrew Aberham told the town board that a lease was sent to Regal Cinemas 45 days ago, and his company is having “ongoing conversations” about the project.
“The lease is out. We’re negotiating. The ball is in their court and we’re waiting for their comments,” he told the town board. “There are only a handful of issues.”
Mr. Aberham said that, if Regal doesn’t sign the lease, “it’s simple. We will continue to go forward with the movie theater. That is something we’ve committed to doing.”
The applicants would need a code amendment from the town board to allow a movie theater in a shopping center zoning district and an auxiliary drive-through restaurant at the site.
The project received approvals from the town’s zoning board of appeals on the evening of June 8 for relief from the town’s height restriction of 35 feet. Developers also received relief from parking calculations, planning for 69 fewer parking spaces than required, and for a reduced number of loading docks and relief from parking lot light pole height restrictions to keep the existing light poles.
The project as currently designed would be 44.6 feet high at its peak, down from an original proposal of 60 feet.
The owners are working with CREATE Architecture, which designed Riverhead’s Tanger Outlets, on revamping the façade of the shopping center.
Philips International Director of Development and Construction Bill Kugelman said his company plans to apply for tax relief from the town’s Industrial Development Agency for the new construction on the portion of the shopping center that had once been the Walmart, which is a separate tax parcel from the rest of the center.
Board members said they would support the IDA application, and if the public input is positive at a hearing on the town code change, would look favorably on the project as a whole.
“We thank you. I think this is really going to help the East End,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio. “We are full steam ahead.”
“Kids are looking for jobs, and movie theaters are a great place for kids to work,” she added.
“Movie theaters are a great draw, but a huge financial sinkhole. They’re not able to pay the rents you would normally get,” said Town Supervisor Sean Walter, who had opposed IDA credits for properties on Route 58 in the past. “I’ll go on the record as supporting it. It’s a great anchor tenant.”