Manhattan developer sees opportunity on Main Street

by Micah Danney Nov 14, 2013, 12:09 pm

A Manhattan-based real estate developer wants to bring a trendy form of office space to Riverhead’s downtown, having chosen the town because it’s changing — and because it hasn’t changed for such a long time.

“I couldn’t get over how beautiful downtown Riverhead is,” said Georgia Malone, president of Georgia Malone and Company, Inc. She said she’s been pleasantly surprised at attempts at development like Summerwind Square. She said such affordable housing is a necessity for the workforce needed if downtown is to continue to revitalize.

Malone and her partner on the project, Amir Korangy, are planning two 4,000-square-foot floors of shared office space at 30 W. Main Street. Their purchase of the building is still being negotiated but Malone said she expects to reach a deal by the end of the month. She presented the proposal to the Riverhead Industrial Development Agency Nov. 4, seeking tax benefits to offset the costs of renovations and marketing she said will be needed to realize her vision for the building.

The proposed idea is one that is “revolutionizing office buildings” in New York and other cities, Malone said: small to mid-sized units for rent that come with telephone, wifi, printing and other hookups with common lounge and eating areas.

“They want to rub elbows with other people,” she said of the type of entrepreneurs she would be looking to attract.

The idea is to create an environment of collaboration and synergy between small business owners who can feed off each other’s energy and make connections with each other that benefit them socially and economically.

The model includes more flexible leasing rather than long-term commitments, as many new entrepreneurs don’t know how viable their business will be. They can work out of a professional, dynamic space without the heavy obligation that normally comes with leasing an office. The office market is changing, Malone said, and business owners require options that meet their changing needs.

Raymond Pickersgill, president of the Business Improvement District, was enthusiastic about the prospect.

“I think it’s a great idea. I think it will work, and the businesses can work off each other,” he said. “It also shows another way to utilize a space that was difficult to rent.”

Malone said the project will boost Riverhead’s downtown revitalization efforts, creating an influx of professionals who will frequent Main Street’s restaurants and other shops.

She said the building caught her eye for its appearance and central location, and proximity to the “gorgeous Peconic riverfront” one block away. Malone has a home in Westhampton Beach where she lives Thursdays through Sundays. She said Riverhead has retained the “quaint” charm she feels has been lost by hamlets like Bridgehampton and East Hampton further east.

“You don’t want those stores,” she said of the types of downtown commercial districts that have grown in some of those communities. She expressed a particular disdain for a certain franchise coffee shop giant.

“If Starbucks comes, I’m leaving,” she joked.

Malone called Riverhead’s downtown “unique,” and said she hopes it hangs on to that quality, which she predicted could lead to the cultivation of a “very nice little town.” With considerable experience closing large deals for retail, multi-family and other buildings throughout New York City, she said she thinks Riverhead has the kind of destination potential she wants to invest in.

“Riverhead should really be the place where people go to,” she said.