A major component in Bay Street Theater’s effort to build a new home and transform a swath of Sag Harbor’s waterfront has fallen into place. The property at 2 Main Street — known locally for years as Fort Apache — was sold to 2 Main Street LLC, which has ties to Friends of Bay Street, the not-for-profit formed last year to find a new home for the theater.
The prospective sale of the building with its four commercial tenants, including K Pasa restaurant, to an anonymous group of theater supporters has long been rumored, but Friends of Bay Street’s chairman, Adam Potter, who has been the public face of the effort to buy the Water Street Shops property as a site for a new theater as well as related efforts to purchase nearby properties, has remained mum and was unavailable for comment this week.
Mayor Jim Larocca let the cat out of the bag at Tuesday’s Village Board meeting, announcing that he had received word that the property, owned by Rose Chang, had been sold. Furthermore, Mr. Larocca said, the new owners had already reached out to Southampton Town about the possibility of selling the building to the town Community Preservation Fund, so it could be razed, with the property being added to Steinbeck Waterfront Park.
Lisa Kombrink, the town’s CPF manager, confirmed that the new owners had reached out to her this week, but declined further comment. Before the town could agree to purchase all or part of the property, it would require an extensive review, including appraisals, and a public hearing.
“I’ve been campaigning for six years to make this park — and make it bigger — and, of course I’m happy about it,” the mayor said of the sale. “But I’m also interested in and concerned about any dislocations that will be associated with this sale just as we saw with the 7-Eleven building and Dodds & Eder.”
Besides K Pasa, 2 Main Street is home to Espresso Da Asporto takeout, the Yummylicious ice cream parlor, and Havens, a women’s clothing and accessories shop.
When Mr. Potter announced in October 2020 that Friends of Bay Street had purchased Water Street Shops as a future theater site, it was made clear that 7-Eleven, Sing City, a Chinese takeout restaurant, Water Street Wines and Spirits, Choppin’ Charlie’s barbershop, and several other retail stores and offices, including the Center for Jewish Life, would have to find new homes. The 7-Eleven store closed in the spring, but most of the other tenants remain in place with month-to-month leases.
Shortly after the initial purchase, Mr. Potter, alone or with partners, purchased a number of properties on Bridge and Rose streets, he said, to provide potential landing places for the displaced businesses. But rather than mollify critics, the purchases instead fed suspicions that Mr. Potter was simply the advance guard of a well-heeled investment group, seeking to gain control of a major portion of the village’s commercial district.
In April, when Friends of Bay Street unveiled initial plans for a new theater on the Water Street Shops site, Mr. Potter announced that he was in serious talks to purchase 2 Main Street. He said Friends of Bay Street would not be the buyers, but that a separate, anonymous investment group would buy the property — a sale price of $18 million was being bandied about at the time — and would willingly take a loss on it, so that it could sold back to the CPF and added to the park. That would allow an open vista to the waterfront on the eastern portion of the site, while the new theater building would largely replace the Water Street Shops and a portion of the existing parking lot.
Village officials and civic groups had a mostly warm response to that proposal, with then Trustee Larocca, who had initially opposed the Water Street Shops site as a new home for Bay Street, calling it a game changer, and the architect Randy Croxton, who conducted a study showing the impact of proposed new waterfront zoning changes, saying the preserved vista to the waterfront would be a long-term gift to the village in the form of access.
But the talks dragged on, with some saying the deal had been delayed because Ms. Chang wanted to use the proceeds from the sale to buy other commercial properties in the village. There have been rumors that several other commercial properties would change hands as part of the 2 Main Street deal, but those rumors have not been confirmed.