Riverhead Town Supervisor Yvette Aguiar has announced plans for a $20 million purchase of the Peconic Bay Medical Center Foundation’s Robert Entenmann Campus and relocate Town Hall to the downtown Riverhead property.
The move to 4 West Second Street will solve a myriad of problems that have plagued the town for the better part of two decades. It will consolidate Town Hall, currently spread out across four properties, while also freeing up room in the current main Town Hall building on Howell Avenue for the Riverhead Town Justice Court, which has long been criticized for cramped, unsafe quarters, including staff working out of portable trailers.
The acquisition will also place the Town Hall in a central location, just two blocks from downtown, to the Riverhead’s overall revitalization plan, according to Aguiar. It was, she says, “perfect timing and location for Town Hall to move, the Town Square development and the transit-oriented housing development.”
The supervisor also adds that she recently became aware that the Robert Entenmann Campus was being eyed by two developers for apartment buildings, as the hospital plans its move to the former Bishop McGann-Mercy High School property next to the Peconic Bay Medical Center on Route 58.
“We felt it was more appropriate to put the Town Hall there to help support the Town Square and develop the transient-oriented housing area,” Aguiar says of the Robert Entenmann Campus.
This week, the supervisor signed a letter of intent to buy the 4.2-acre property at 4, 5 and 6 West Second Street and 214 Griffing Avenue, which offers four structures, including a 36,000-square-foot, three-story building currently being used for the hospital’s executive offices. That building is in move-in-ready condition featuring modern, corporate offices and a downstairs kitchen.
In addition to the main building and the People’s United Bank building, the complex includes a two-story annex building to the west, which could be leased out, as well as a house with historical value, which Aguiar is hoping to restore and make the town historian’s building. There are also 300 parking spaces.
A contract is currently being developed for the sale, but she believes the town could close in as early as three months. The sale will include a half-million-dollar generator, as well as some office furniture, the supervisor says. With supply chain costs, building a new building elsewhere could have cost much more.
Riverhead Town will seek a $20 million bond to cover the cost, which is subject to a permissive referendum, meaning residents can push for a public vote on the issue if they submit a petition challenging the sale.
“However, the cost will be minimal, if not net zero to the taxpayers,” Aguiar explains. The town stands to collect an annual rent of $200,000 from People’s United Bank at 6 West Second Street, which leases one of the four buildings.
The move could take place within six months. Once it takes place, the town also plans to sell 210 Howell Avenue, where the Riverhead Town Building Department’s offices are located across the street from the current main Town Hall building at 200 Howell Avenue. The justice court, currently at 210 Howell Avenue, could move into the current Town Hall.
The new town hall will provide a meeting room, as well as office space for the following departments, including the tax receiver, town clerk, assessor, code enforcement, building and planning, human resources and more. The supervisor, council members and the town attorney’s office will also have offices in the building.
“We’re excited to partner with the Town of Riverhead to provide them this opportunity, and moreover, to help assist Riverhead in realizing its development and revitalization goals,” according to a statement from Amy Loeb, the Executive Director and President of the Peconic Bay Medical Center Foundation.
Meanwhile, the foundation will reinvest funds from the sale into the emergency department expansion, women’s health services and further ambulatory expansion, the statement said.
“As we look to the future, Peconic Bay Medical Center is devoted to continuing to develop and provide the community of Riverhead, and the entire East End, with a world-class facility that provides essential, next-level care,” Loeb continues. “The legacy and generous contributions made by the Entenmann family will be honored as PBMC shifts its focus to revitalization and investment on our newly expanded main campus, formerly Mercy High School.”
Following the 2016 death of Robert Entenmann, of the bakery business fame, his children, Jackie and Robert, honored his legacy with a gift of $5 million to Peconic Bay Medical Center’s New Era Campaign benefitting cardiac care for the region. In 2018, the PBMC downtown campus was named the Robert Entenmann Campus.
The building at 4 West Second Street was formerly home to Suffolk County National Bank. It has housed non-clinical medical staff, from administrative offices to the medical center’s finance, billing, and Human Resources operations, as well as the offices of Peconic Bay Home Health Services, the county’s largest certified home health agency.
In 2020, the Peconic Bay Medical Center Foundation bought the shuttered Mercy High School, a 24.8-acre property, from the Diocese of Rockville Centre for $14 million.
As the hospital develops its plans for the former school property, it will need permits from the Town of Riverhead.
“The president of the PBMC when we approached her with the possibility has been supportive,” Aguiar says. “She worked with her board, she worked with all the members of the foundation and we were able to reach an agreement pretty quickly.”