A corner of Bridgehampton’s busiest intersection once served in the 1700s as the site of Wick’s Tavern, which housed the hamlet’s first post office, and was where local freemen who opposed the British Parliament are believed to have met during the Revolutionary War era. It has been recognized by the state as a historic place.
Today, the corner is the future location of a two-story, 9,030-square-foot building previously eyed by CVS Pharmacy, though they have since decided against occupying it. Many residents believe it is a spot where retail development should not take place, as parking and traffic are already problematic on that part of Bridgehampton Main Street, a stretch of busy Montauk Highway.
Over the past year, members of community groups in the hamlet have considered different ways to preserve that corner, which sits across from Topping Rose House, Almond Restaurant and the historic Nathaniel Rogers House. It was a concept they hoped would thwart CVS after the company announced in April 2014 that it had signed a lease for the building.
CVS confirmed late last month, however, that it has terminated its agreement with BNB Ventures IV, the owner of the property at 2510 Montauk Highway. The pharmacy giant is instead in negotiations with Konner Development to open a store in the Bridgehampton Gateway, a mixed-use planned development district proposed across from Bridgehampton Commons on the other side of the hamlet.
Construction on the building, which has the necessary town approvals, is already under way. But with CVS out of the picture, residents said they hope to again explore options for the corner, ranging from additional public parking, an annex for the Hampton Library, or a simple green space.
Leonard Davenport, a member of the Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee and the Village Improvement Society, said community members could possibly raise the money to purchase the property themselves, although that would require large contributions.
He said residents also have considered asking the town to put the property on its Community Preservation Fund list, but since construction has begun, that would mean amending the CPF rules so the property qualifies, since it is no longer open space. Regardless, he said, a retailer should not be located there.
“Everything looks at the issue in terms of, the corner can’t handle a high-density and high-traffic business,” Mr. Davenport said. “That kind of thing will just make that corner that more difficult. People will be parking on people’s lawns.”
But for residents or the town to purchase the property, BNB Ventures has to be willing to sell.
Records show that the company purchased the lot for $3.5 million in 2007 from Matt Worrell, who owned Bridgehampton Beverage, a beer and liquor distributor once located there. Wayne Bruyn, the Southampton attorney representing BNB Ventures, said on Tuesday that his client still intends to follow through with the approved building, despite little to no activity at the site since the foundation was laid in the fall. Selling has not been considered, he said.
“It takes a lot more to convince anybody to sell. I don’t think at this point in time, with the way they have been treated by both the town and the community, they would just say, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m going to sell the property,’” Mr. Bruyn said. “Someone is going to have to come up with the numbers and be serious about it.
“At the current time, all I know is they have plans to complete the construction of the building,” he added.
There was a time, however, when there was a potential seller.
Shortly after BNB Ventures purchased the corner, East Hampton attorney Leonard Ackerman, who was listed as part-owner on the initial application for the building, had expressed interest to town officials of getting the property on the CPF list. Nancy Graboski, a Bridgehampton resident who was a councilwoman then, recalled this week that she supported the idea, although it never panned out or even went before the Town Board for consideration.
“The thinking was, certainly from my vantage point, that that would be a very prudent move. I really felt the town should’ve proceeded to negotiate with Mr. Ackerman,” she said.
As much as Ms. Graboski agreed that the corner is important, she said it would be too late for the town to take any action on acquiring it—unless BNB Ventures eventually decides to sell. She noted, as did Mr. Bruyn, that the company has invested a lot of time and money into the property, and that the likelihood of it being sold right now is very slim.
“I have a feeling it’s going to be coming with a hefty price tag,” she said.
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