The Observer: New look hotel approved for tax break

By David Ambro
July 5, 2018

On the verge of receiving a tax abatement from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency (IDA), the owners of the hotel proposed to be built on the northeast corner of Main Street and Woodside Avenue in Northport Village have finalized a new building design to incorporate features of the historic Conklin House that once stood on the property.

The hotel is being built by 225 Northport LLC, an equal partnership of Kevin O’Neill and Richard Dolce, who own the John W. Engeman Theater at Northport, which is across the street from the proposed hotel. They propose to demolish a 17,610-squarefoot office building, which encases the old Conklin House, and construct a 25,500 square foot, three story hotel with 24 rooms and a 200-seat groundfloor restaurant. The site is .84 acres. The project includes the construction of a two-tier parking lot in the rear of the building on Woodside Avenue.

Mr. Dolce and Mr. O’Neill bought the site January 6, 2016 for $1,320,958. They hope to demolish the building this fall and begin construction of the hotel, work estimated at $7,741,605, and a job expected to take 12 to 18 months with anticipated occupancy in the fall of 2019 to winter of 2020. With equipment estimated at $1.23 million and with other miscellaneous expenses, the total cost of the hotel is estimated at $11,689,055. The hotel is expected to create 40 new jobs, generating an annual payroll of $1.4 million.

The preliminary hotel design Mr. O’Neill had presented was a traditional red brick facade with an entrance in the center of the building, fashioned after the American Hotel in Sag Harbor. Mr. O’Neill provided The Observer this week with a rendering of the new design, which features a rounded facade with an entrance facing the corner of Main Street and Woodside Avenue, a white panel facade, mansard roof and windows that replicate those that were once on the Conklin House.

“This will make it a downtown Northport building, not a downtown Huntington building. There is a big difference,” Mr. O’Neill said during an interview at his office in the theater last week. “This is going to pay homage to the old house.”

Mr. O’Neill said the previous design was preliminary to let people see what could become of the blighted office building on the property now. He said that all the while he has been looking at boutique hotels around the country to find the right fit, and that the inspiration for the new design is the Delamar Hotel in Southport, Connecticut.

“We decided to model it in that image because we feel it is a better fit for Northport,” Mr. O’Neill said. “We want to build a building we are going to be proud to walk into every day and that I think is in keeping with Northport Village architecture.”

Mr. O’Neill said the more he looked at the first design plan the more he got cold to it. He said that the mansard roof made him immediately warm up to the new design. He said the Delamar design is that of a harbortown building. “And, I think it is going to give our hotel a fantastic harbortown feel,” he said.

Mr. O’Neill said that during the Northport Village Board of Architectural and Historic Review Board application process for a demolition permit, it was suggested that the project incorporate some of the building elements of the old Conklin House, including the windows. “We are doing that in a significant way with the window design of the third-floor dormers,” Mr. O’Neill said.

In the meantime, the hotel project received preliminary approval June 28 for a $1.3 million property tax abatement, according to a statement released by the IDA.

“The design and style will be in keeping with a classic, old-world harbor town and will fill a much needed lodging void in the area,” says the IDA application for the property tax rebate. “The economic impact on both the existing theater business, as well as on the Village of Northport and the surrounding area, will be tremendously positive. This project will allow the John W. Engeman Theater, which is the major economic driver in the Village of Northport, to continue to remain a viable business entity going forward.”

At its meeting Thursday, June 28, the IDA Board granted preliminary approval of a 15-year property tax exemption totaling $758,066, a sales tax exemption of $516,653, and a mortgage tax exemption of $31,875, a total financial abatement package of $1,309,594. The current property tax bill on the property is $56,545. The hotel development will increase the property tax bill to $174,268. With the IDA abatement the first year tax bill will be $87,134, a 50% savings but still a $30,589 property tax increase from the current building. The property taxes abatement will be phased down in three percent increments over the 15-year life of the abatement.

“Having the tax abatement package that is being proposed by the IDA is integral to our project,” Mr. O’Neill said.

“The proposed project will fill a void in an area absent of hotels and, in turn, stimulate the local economy,” said Tony Catapano, Executive Director of the Suffolk County IDA. “The IDA is pleased to play a role in this project that will generate significant tax revenue for the Northport community.”

According to the IDA the site is directly across the street from the John W. Engeman Theatre, which is also owned by the hotel developers. The theater employs more than 200 people and brings over 110,000 visitors to the village each year.

“The property will generate $1 million more in property taxes than its current use,” said Kelly Morris, Deputy Executive Director of the Suffolk County IDA. “The addition of the Northport Hotel to the many existing assets of downtown Northport will truly make it a unique tourist destination.”

“We’re enthusiastic about the development of the Northport Hotel and restaurant located right across from the John W. Engeman Theatre, a staple of Northport,” Mr. O’Neill said after meeting with the IDA last week. “This project reaffirms our commitment to both Northport and Suffolk County, and it would not have been made possible without the support of the Town of Huntington, Village of Northport and the Suffolk County IDA. Their assistance has helped us realize our goals for this community.”

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