Architect's rendering of expansion proposed for the north side of the Suffolk Theater. Rendering: Richard Stott

The Riverhead Town Board is ready to approve the preliminary site plans for a five-story mixed-use addition to the Suffolk Theater and a four-story mixed-use building on McDermott Avenue. 

Town Board members agreed during a work session on Wednesday to vote to approve the plans at their upcoming regular meeting Feb. 7. 

The 59-foot, four-inch tall addition on the rear of the Suffolk theater will consist of an expanded stage and backstage area, including a new green room, dressing rooms, restrooms, kitchenette, laundry room, showers, and mechanical rooms. The addition also includes approximately 2,970 square feet of first-floor retail space and 28 market-rate rental apartments on floors two through five — 20 studio units and eight one-bedroom units. The board held a required public hearing on the site plan in April of last year.

Suffolk Theater representatives previously said that the expansion will “ensure a steady income” and allow the theater to be sustainable as a performing arts center.

Riverhead Planner Greg Bergman told the Town Board today that a report from Riverhead Water District consultants H2M found that a water pipe in the First Street area is about 100 years old and needs to be replaced to hook up the site. The theater’s approval requires the applicant to conduct an improvement project on aging water infrastructure with a total cost of $381,000; $374,000 of the cost will be the responsibility of the developer and $7,000 will be the responsibility of the Riverhead Water District, according to the resolution. 

The applicant will also have to pay required Parks and Recreation fees totaling $84,000.

Bergman said that before final site plan approval, the applicant needs to obtain permits from, and have a plan to connect to, the Riverhead Sewer District.

Council Member Tim Hubbard said that the addition will be built in two stages: the first being the improvements to the theater and backstage area, and the second phase being the addition of the apartments.

Town Board members were thrilled at the prospect of improving the theater, which has been heralded as a centerpiece of downtown.

“I can’t wait to see bigger acts,” Council Member Frank Beyrodt said.

Council Member Ken Rothwell floated the idea that the apartments planned for the addition could also be used as hotel rooms for larger acts that perform at the theater. 

Rendering by Martin Sendlewski of proposed apartment building on the east side of McDermott Avenue in Riverhead.

The Zenith Building would be built on a one-eighth acre parcel, currently improved with a two-story, single-family residence, located on the east side of McDermott Avenue opposite of Riverview Lofts apartments. The building would consist of nine market-rate rental apartments above two ground-floor commercial spaces totaling more than 2,100-square-feet, and will stand 49 feet tall, with a total height of 58 feet including architectural elements.

The Town Board held the required public hearing on the site plan in October of last year.

Bergman said the applicant will need to pay for the installation of a new fire hydrant on McDermott Avenue at the intersection of the municipal parking lot estimated to cost $32,250. The developer of the building will also be required to pay fees associated with water district hookups, as well ask applicable key money fees, although the resolution does not list a specific amount. 

The applicants for the building will also have to pay required Parks and Recreation fees totaling $27,000.

“It’s a beautiful looking building and I can’t wait to see it built,” said Council Member Bob Kern, who participated in the meeting via telephone.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com