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Potter Plans Take New Turn in Sag Harbor

Thu, 08/03/2023 - 09:17

Fewer apartments, less retail, plus theater space

Adam Potter owns five properties, each held by a different limited liability company, on Bridge, Rose, and Meadow Streets.
Chris DiSunno

Adam Potter, founder of the Friends of Bay Street, has tabled controversial plans for a 79-unit downtown affordable apartment building with 34,000 square feet of retail space that he submitted to Sag Harbor Village last June.

In a series of phone calls, Mr. Potter described an entirely different proposal involving a community center and apartment building with retail separated by a public park. The village board must grant a special exception permit for whatever new plan he submits, since he seeks to build an apartment building in the office district.

“I’m giving everybody the details. The pictures will be out soon enough,” he said, without providing a cost estimate. “I’ve heard all the comments, the good and bad. I’ve met with people, read all the social media, and I’ve tried to come back with something that addresses all the concerns.”

Mr. Potter owns five properties, each held by a different limited liability company, within the U formed by Bridge, Rose, and Meadow Streets. The top part of the U is covered by the “gas ball lot,” which the Public Service Commission recently awarded to Mr. Potter’s 11 Bridge Street, L.L.C. As part of his proposal, the five lots would be combined under the 11 Bridge Street, L.L.C. name.

The building fronting Rose Street will be designed by BHC Architects and would contain 39 residential units, 19 of them affordable.

“We heard 79 housing units is way too many,” said Mr. Potter. Another criticism of his last proposal was that there were too many one-bedroom apartments. The vast majority, 24, of the new units will be two-bedroom apartments, and the remainder will be one and three bedrooms. The units would be sold and not rented. He would provide more parking with this plan too. On the ground floor of the building, 45 parking spots will be dedicated to the apartment dwellers. “We heard people want to own their own places, and this gives them an opportunity to do that,” he said.

Also within the residential building is retail space. “The revised application is for 11,000 square feet of commercial space, down from 34,000 in the initial application,” said Mr. Potter. “According to some community members, 34,000 was too big. If you look at the five properties today, they contain 11,000 square feet of commercial space. We’re just matching what currently exists.”

He said the “superstore” provisions of the village code wouldn’t apply to his project, since the retail spaces, too, would be sold and not leased. Interested parties include the UPS Store, Sean Edison Salon, and Sing City, he added. He said a dry cleaning drop-off site made sense for the location too.

The second building, referred to informally as “the complex,” by Mr. Potter, was described as a community center with five uses. At least a third of the building would be dedicated to a performing arts space.

Even though, as head of Friends of Bay Street Theater, Mr. Potter has been tasked with finding a permanent home for the theater, he denied that this was part of that puzzle.

“This is 100 percent not tied to the Bay Street Theater,” he said. “They’re not leasing it; they’re not buying it.” He said it would be complementary to Bay Street, for example, providing Nancy Atlas a venue to play in the village when the theater was booked, as it often is in the summer.

In addition to the theater space, the complex would be occupied by nonprofit organizations such as the Sag Harbor Helpers (“I’ve already met with them,” he said), an “education space,” a “non-retail art gallery and museum, which is open to the public,” and a return of the Youth Center of Sag Harbor.

The 90-spot gas ball lot would serve the building, but Mr. Potter promised that it would also be open to the public. “Everybody wins,” he said.

“I’ll tell you I’m not happy with the P.S.C. decision,” said Mayor Tom Gardella, regarding the parking lot. “They’re not taking into consideration any of our local codes and how they relate to that lot. It’s not permitted in our code to have a private parking lot. The story is not over, we’re leaning towards appealing that decision.”

Chris DiSunno, a Sag Harbor architect and tenant in a building owned by Mr. Potter, will design the community center. “The goal is the first use is a performing arts space,” he said by phone. “It’s an entire departure from the prior contemporary design,” he added, referring to the Roger Ferris & Partners Bay Street Theater building once envisioned for 21 Long Island Avenue. For inspiration, he cited the old Alvin Silver Company building, which burned to the ground in 1925 and is commemorated by a plaque in front of Sag Pizza.

“The challenge for designing a building that’s going to be a performing arts center is fenestration, really. You obviously do not want windows in a theater,” said Mr. DiSunno. “Fixing the groundwater situation with the property though, that’s the big problem.”

To that end, Mr. Potter said a 65,000-gallon dry well would be installed by Bohler Engineering. “You don’t just buy land without knowing what’s in the ground. We identified 22 compounds that exceed maximums in the soil and 33 that exceed maximums in the groundwater. We’ve met with the D.E.C. and applied for the brownfield clean-up program. Our application will include all the land remediation in accordance with D.E.C. oversight. This will be a huge environmental benefit to the community that they’re not paying for.” Additionally, four of the five lots have aging septic systems, which would be removed. The new buildings would be connected to the village sewer system.

Aidan Corish, the trustee who acts as liaison to the village’s sewer department, declined to comment because the plans had not yet been submitted.

Liz Vail, the village attorney, wrote in an email that Mr. Potter’s previous plans were returned to him after Local Law 12, which allowed for mixed retail and housing in the office district, was removed from village code after an April State Supreme Court ruling.

It wasn’t clear if the new plan would comply with village code either, since no village official would comment on it until the proposal was officially submitted. However, Mr. Potter was confident.

“This complies with all the zoning that’s allowed in the office district,” he said. “If Local Law 12 had stayed in effect, it would have required 100 percent affordable housing there. It’s financially feasible because 20 of the 39 units are at the market rate now.”

“Adam has all these ideas, but which one is going to stick? Until I see something on paper, I can’t comment,” said Mayor Gardella.

“This isn’t a bait-and-switch,” said Mr. Potter. “I want it to fit in with the village. I’m committed to going through all the boards with this. My goal is to provide a park, community center, and provide affordable housing. If they want me to make it out of matchsticks, I’ll make it out of matchsticks.”

The new plans, he said, would be submitted to the village this week.



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