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Officials get first look at design concepts for multiplex theater and plaza makeover

Riverhead Town officials got a first look at conceptual designs for a proposed multiplex movie theater and a makeover of Riverhead Plaza, located on Route 58 between Oliver Street and Ostrander Avenue.

Representatives of Riverhead PGC, LLC, a subsidiary of the Manhattan based holding company Philips International, presented preliminary designs to the Riverhead Architectural Review Board Wednesday afternoon.

The property owner plans to demolish 71,000 square feet of existing structure and construct a freestanding 51,000 square foot for a 10-screen, 1,490-seat movie theater.

It also plans to build two freestanding restaurants on the north portion of the site, in what is now excess parking area. One would be a 2,600-square-foot, 126-seat restaurant with a drive-thru window. The other would be a 7,560-square-foot, 220-seat restaurant.

Riverhead PGC is still negotiating with prospective tenants for the restaurants, said VHB engineer Courtney Reilly, who is handling the project.

Architect’s rendering: CREATE Architecture Planning & Design

The property owner is “very close” to signing a lease with prospective movie tenant Regal Cinemas, Riverhead PGC attorney Charles Cuddy told the Riverhead Town Board earlier this month. Town Supervisor Sean Walter said the movie theater chain authorized the lease late last year, contingent on the property owner building the two restaurant pads and landing “national” restaurant tenants, Walter said in an interview. The makeover was another condition imposed by Regal, Walter said.

Philips International director of sales and leasing Andrew Aberham, in an interview on Jan. 17, confirmed the supervisor’s account of the status of the deal with Regal.

The shopping plaza is one of Riverhead’s oldest and in need of a makeover. It currently has one very large, very uniform facade featuring a uniform canopy.

The new design goal is “to break the massing up, both front and back and height-wise, so it looks more like a village,” architect Todd Evans of CREATE Architecture, Planning and Design in Manhattan told Architectural Review Board members this week.

Some of the existing canopy structure will be retained, he said, while some will be removed. Some of the building facades will be pulled out, and in other places trimmed back. There will be trellised areas and a significant mix of building heights, materials and colors.

CREATE handled Tanger Outlets’ recent exterior renovations that gave the outlet center a whole new look.

“This is all still conceptual, Evans said. “We haven’t developed it that far along yet.”

The plans being developed by VHB feature new — and more — landscaping and improved on-site traffic flow, Reilly told the board.

The development will require a number of variances, including a height variance for the theater. The proposed theater is from 55 to 60 feet tall, which exceeds the 35-foot height limit in the zoning district. Variances for a drive-thru window and 69 fewer parking stalls than required by code are also needed and have been applied for.

The Riverhead Zoning Board of Appeals held a hearing on the Riverhead PGC variance application April 13. Neighboring residents voiced objections to the height of the theater and expressed worries about noise and litter resulting from movie theater use. See story in News-Review. The hearing was held over and will be continued on April 27.

The theater building, though taller than the existing building, will be smaller in area and will be set back further from the property lines than the existing building, Reilly said.

In addition to the variances, the owner will need a special permit from the town board for the theater use and the drive-thru window. It will also, of course, need site plan approval from the town planning board.

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio, who attended the ARB meeting told Reilly the town board may require the owner to install a sound wall to protect neighboring residents from impacts.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website. Email Denise.