A vacant former bar on Railroad Avenue that lost its liquor license in April 2019 following a pair of violent incidents several months prior will be renovated as a grocery store if a site plan and change of use application are approved by the Riverhead Town Board.
The freestanding building at 131-139 Railroad Avenue was sold a year ago to a Medford-based company.
The new owner, 139 R.R. Plaza Inc., is proposing — in addition to the new use — façade improvements to the one-story, approximately 4,975-square-foot concrete building. The proposed façade improvements consist of new windows, doors, a new brick veneer on the Railroad Avenue street frontage, repainting the existing stucco façade, new metal roof coping, and replacing existing vinyl siding.
The building is currently divided into four storefronts. The bar, the largest space located roughly in the center, and the contiguous storefront to the east are vacant. The storefronts to the west of the vacant bar are occupied by a a taxi dispatch office and a barber shop. The existing structures have a letter of pre-existing use which was issued on by the town in November 1983.
The new owner proposes to enlarge the former bar storefront — to be used as a grocery store — by dividing the currently vacant unit to the west.
The application, for a building located in a historic district and an urban renewal area, should be classified as a Type a Action under the State Environmental Quality Review Act, requiring coordinated review by involved agencies, Riverhead Planning Department planning aide told town board members during today’s work session. The planning department recommends that the town board assume lead agency status and issue a negative declaration pursuant to SEQRA, because proposed site improvements will not have a significant negative environmental impact, nor will they “impair the reasonable and orderly development of the surrounding area.”
Board members generally reacted favorably to the plan, acknowledging that the Railroad Avenue area is one in need of revitalization. Councilwoman Jodi Giglio expressed concerns about the taxi cabs parked on the street in front of the building and the potential for hazards to pedestrians crossing the street to enter and leave the proposed grocery. She also questioned whether the parking lot on the site could be utilized for taxi parking, perhaps facilitated by adding the property to the parking district so patrons of the businesses could use on-street parking and municipal lots.
The Landmarks Preservation Commission has already reviewed the plans and issued a report stating that the building, likely constructed in the 1920s or 1930s, has “one significant feature” — the “crenelated parapet, a feature characteristic of its era.” Crenellation is a pattern along the top of a parapet (a fortified wall), most often in the form of multiple, regular, rectangular spaces in the top of the wall, through which arrows or other weaponry may be shot, especially as used in medieval European architecture.
The Landmarks Commission said it approves of the plans submitted on Dec. 4, 2019 with two exceptions. First, the existing parapet should either be retained or replicated; and second, the siding in the rear portions should be HardiePlank clapboards (or similar fiber cement product), not vinyl.
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