A new community center is in the Westhampton community’s future.
On Tuesday, the Southampton Town Board unanimously approved the $4.1 million purchase of the property at 112 Old Riverhead Road in Westhampton Beach. The existing 22,000-square-foot building, a former car dealership and restaurant with three floors, elevators and a glass rotunda, will be converted into space for a senior nutrition program and the youth services program.
Since Councilmen John Bouvier joined the board, he has wanted to find a space for a Westhampton community center since the previous one shuttered in 2015. “This is a much needed resource for the community on the west end of town,” Bouvier said. “We’ve been looking for a while; a lot of people worked on this. It’s a great location – near the school, the village, and plenty of space, with room to grow. I’m really excited.”
Diana Weir, the town’s director of housing and community services, told the board at an August 25 meeting that a community center “was much need in that western part of the town.” A senior lunch program at the Westhampton Library, meant as a trial run, was very well received, she said. Otherwise, seniors had to travel to Hampton Bays, Flanders or Bridgehampton community centers to participate in the program, which doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The senior lunch program is pretty popular and we wanted to make sure that the residents in this part of town were able to participate,” Bouvier said. “Not only is it important from a nutritional standpoint, it’s also a way for them to connect socially. Now they will have their own community center. I see so many possibilities… for our seniors, our youth, it’s going to be a great asset for our community.”
Supervisor Jay Schneiderman called it “an underserved area,” and said the building could be used in several other ways. The clerk’s office could hold office hours there. The supervisor said it may even help reduce traffic on the roadways if people do not have to head east for town services.
Town officials explored the idea of leasing the property with an option to buy, but ultimately opted to make the purchase immediately. The town comptroller advised officials that conditions for purchase were better with interest rates being so low. The board also allocated an addition $900,000 for building modifications.
The building, formerly Manhattan Motorcars of the Hamptons, a luxury car dealership that also was home to the Annona restaurant, is currently owned by 112 WHB, LLC. The board also allocated an addition $900,000 for building modifications.
The lease term would have been for 10 years with two options to extend for a total of 30 years. The initial annual rent would have been $200,000 with a 2% annual increase. The town also would have been responsible for $16,000 in taxes each year, as well as repairs and upkeep, though the landlord agreed to pick up roof and structural repairs.
The 7,000-square-foot first floor has an open floor plan and restrooms, ideal bones for the senior nutrition program, officials said. The second floor had been a restaurant at one point, and has plumbing and gas connections for a commercial kitchen should the town decide later to prepare meals on the premises.
There are 60 parking spaces, accessed by two driveways off of Old Riverhead Road.
The town stands to make some money as a landlord, as well. Suffolk County would like to lease a portion of the 5,000-square-foot second floor. The proposed agreement is for the county to rent about 3,000-square-feet for 10 years for $72,000 per year with a 3% annual increase. The county also expressed interest in leasing the 7,000-square-foot basement.
The building already offers some income. Verizon holds a lease for an antenna that had been installed in the building, bringing in $15,000 annually. There are two years left on initial lease, and Verizon has option to extend it for four additional 5-year terms.