Friends Of Bay Street Target 2 Main Street Property To Add To Steinbeck Park

Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, says his organization is in talks to buy the building at 2 Main Street, which would be razed and used to expand John Steinbeck Waterfront Park. DANA SHAW

Another piece of the puzzle has emerged in Bay Street Theater’s plan to build a new home on the site of Sag Harbor’s 7-Eleven convenience store. On Tuesday, during a Zoom meeting to unveil the initial renderings for the new theater, Adam Potter, the chairman of Friends of Bay Street, announced that his not-for-profit organization is also in discussions to purchase 2 Main Street, which is currently home to K Pasa restaurant, Espresso, the Yummylicious ice cream parlor, and Havens, a gift shop.

Mr. Potter said if Friends of Bay Street is able to close the deal, it will raze the building so the property can be added to the new John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, providing a much broader vista to the waterfront than would be otherwise available. The property is owned by Rose Chang, who also owns the Sing City Chinese takeout restaurant.

“As we have stated publicly many times over the past six months, our intention is to build a beautiful building that fits in with the character of the village,” Mr. Potter said. “It also needs to provide great public access and view sheds to the new Steinbeck park and the water.”

Mr. Potter would not disclose the price that is going to be paid for the property or how far along the negotiations are. He said his group would consider working with Southampton Town by selling the development rights to the property to the town through the Community Preservation Fund.

“The theater will not use any part of this land. It is for the overall benefit of Sag Harbor,” Mr. Potter said, “and we are so excited about this opportunity.”

Village officials were cautiously optimistic about the proposal. “It sounds very generous, adding to the park,” said Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, who, nonetheless said she was concerned that if the 2 Main Street building was torn down, another four village businesses would be looking for space on top of those in the Water Streets Shops building.

“We’ve been getting pushback against allowing more retail in the Office District,” she said, referring to an ongoing effort to rezone a portion of the waterfront, “but now we are out at least another eight retail spaces.”

She added that the village has seen several major pieces of property taken off the tax rolls in recent years because they have been acquired by tax-exempt organizations. They include the Sag Harbor Cinema, the Church, the Water Street Shops, and now possibly the National Grid property, which Friends of Bay Street has apparently won the right to lease, as well as 2 Main Street.

“We have been given a vision of what the best result can be, and now we have to see how we can get there,” said Trustee Aidan Corish. “This raises the bar and puts the pressure on Friends of Bay Street to deliver.”

Trustee Bob Plumb gave a measured response, describing the project in whole “as not bad, especially if the concept incorporates the corner lot.”

He said it was his understanding that the deal has not yet been finalized because Ms. Chang is looking to simultaneously purchase another commercial property in the village, and “there’s not much around.”

Although Mr. Potter said Friends of Bay Street would welcome the town’s participation in covering the cost of 2 Main Street, Supervisor Jay Schneiderman cautioned that, while he was open to the idea of preservation, it was much too soon to discuss what the town could contribute.

“We would look favorably at expanding Steinbeck park. I would view that as a positive,” said Mr. Schneiderman, adding that whether the deal is finalized at the appraised value was an important consideration. “If they buy it, they know they are buying it without any guarantees the town will take part,” he said.

Trustee James Larocca, who had suggested the village partner with the town to the buy Water Street Shops to expand Steinbeck park before it was sold to Bay Street, said Mr. Schneiderman had made an informal offer to contribute up to $6 million from the CPF for that purchase.

“The fact that Jay is describing himself as open is encouraging,” Mr. Larocca said. “I’m hoping that indicates the $6 million I feared was lost may not be.”

Trustee Thomas Gardella said adding the 2 Main Street building to the park appeared on the face to be a good idea, “but the devil is always in the details.”

He said he worried about where the businesses in that building would move.

Claudia Gagliardi-Garcia, who has owned Espresso da asporto in the building since November 2019, said she too was worried about the future. “I’m shaking,” she said when she was informed that the building may be sold. “Where would we go?” Although the business has a 10-year lease, she said she would start looking for a new place to rent immediately.

Mr. Potter has said Friends of Bay Street would help Water Street Shops tenants find new homes and would extend the same offer to tenants of 2 Main Street.