Suffolk Theater calls on City Council to move forward with review of expansion plan

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Suffolk Theater co-owner Bob Castaldi presented an updated site plan to City Council for a five-story extension of the theater last week. He asks city council to initiate a coordinated review of the project under the State Environmental Quality Review Act at its next meeting.

The expansion would add 20 feet to the stage depth and provide a green room, changing rooms and other much needed backstage space for the theater, the Castaldi team said. The expansion also includes mixed-use space for 28 market-priced apartments – 20 studios and eight one-bedroom units – and 2,970 square feet of retail space on the ground floor.

Castaldi launched the idea of ​​expanding the building since he bought the city’s long shuttered 1930s art deco cinema for $ 707,000 in 2005. Castaldi bought an adjoining property on the north side of the theater. city ​​in 2006. He renovated and restored the theater to make it a performing arts center, which opened in 2013.

Castaldi initially applied for a site plan for the proposed expansion in 2018 and presented plans to city council in May 2019. Theater consultant for the expansion project, Victor Prusinowski, said the plan incorporated suggestions from the Architectural Review Board and Landmarks Preservation. Committee. The design, by architect Richard Stott, must receive final ARB approval before a public hearing is scheduled on the site plan.

The Suffolk Theater hosts shows on weekends, including music and comedy. It has a bar and commercial kitchen, offering food and drink to theatergoers and can also be used as a wedding or private event venue.

Render: Richard Stott

Prusinowski said the expansion design captures more of the “flavor” of downtown Riverhead compared to other newly added apartment buildings.

The apartments and commercial spaces “will secure future income for the operation of the theater,” said Prusinowski, as the performing arts is a “top-down business” that can be crippled by events like the pandemic. The theater has been closed for over a year due to the pandemic; it reopened at the end of August. Prusinowski said people in the entertainment industry have already made inquiries about renting apartments.

The long-term plan is to operate the theater as a not-for-profit performing arts organization, under the umbrella of a real estate company, which can host theatrical productions and theater classes, and receive awards. tax-exempt donations, Prusinowski said. The Suffolk Theater is currently a for-profit company with a small tax advantage, he said.

The proposed expansion will change the way the theater operates “on steroids,” Castaldi told members of the board. The theater’s small stage and lack of backstage facilities are extremely limiting.

“It makes the possibilities endless,” he said.

City council was excited about the plan, which promised an expansion of one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions and the “centerpiece” of its downtown revitalization initiative.

The main concern of City Council and planning aid Greg Bergman was the impact of the expansion on the First Street municipal parking lot. The site plan was based on the old configuration of the lot, before it was renovated to add more than 60 spaces during the summer. The city has bonded $ 725,917 to cover the cost of renovations to First Street and other lots.

Castaldi and City Councilor Tim Hubbard, the board’s liaison with the parking district, walked back and forth during the meeting on how the expansion could affect the parking lot. In a telephone interview today with RiverheadLOCAL, Hubbard said parking district architect and board member Martin Sendlewski has been working around the planned expansion and no parking will be lost. , alleviating a concern he had expressed at the meeting.

The theater is located in the Riverhead Parking District and pays district taxes to support the district and ensure the right to use municipal parking.

The project seeks the benefits of the Industrial Development Agency, the most important being the saving on sales taxes on building materials, Prusinowski said. The plan also shows the availability of solar panel installations for the top of the building.

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