By Danny Schrafel
Suffolk County’s Industrial Development Agency (IDA) signed off July 24 on a $3-million tax relief package for the developers seeking to convert and expand Old Town Hall in Huntington village to create a 55-room boutique hotel.
After developer Old Town Hall Operating Co. allayed concerns raised June 26 over the amount of local labor to be used in the $10.4-million project, the IDA’s board voted unanimously July 24 to award a $3-million tax relief package – mostly by way of tax abatements – over the next 15 years.
That aid was key to the project’s success, according to Emerson Dobbs, a partner in the project.
“We’re very excited to see this project go forward,” he said Friday. “Without the IDA package, it would have been difficult to get the project going.”
The aid came after Old Town Operating Co. provided a breakdown, at the IDA’s request, of local labor and materials that would be used in the hotel project. The request came after some IDA board members questioned whether plans to use modular components – essentially, the hotel rooms themselves – built in Pennsylvania for assembly in Huntington ran afoul of the agency’s Long Island First policy, which requires grant recipients to use local labor and materials whenever possible.
According to a July 7 letter by contractor Renu Contracting & Restoration’s Michael Peck to Dobbs, if the modular plan is used, 75 to 90 construction jobs will be generated, and $6,522,552 of the $8,922,552 construction budget will go to local contractors.
However, after winning tax relief from the IDA, Dobbs said Old Town Hall Operating Co. is revisiting the largest sticking point that caused the one-month delay in approving the tax relief package.
Dobbs said the firm is “strongly considering” abandoning the modular construction plan and building the hotel using convectional stick-build construction, which would generate more local construction jobs than a modular assembly model.
Even if the modular plan remains, Dobbs stressed that the project would generate ample opportunities for local labor and said the modular units represented less than one-third of the overall project. Local companies, he said, would provide electric, plumbing and foundation work, install alarm systems, glaze the glass windows for the atrium and perform façade work on-site.
The 55-room hotel, which will be built at the corner of Main Street and Stewart Avenue in Huntington village, incorporates Old Town Hall into the design as a lobby, lounge, meeting rooms and an extended-stay suite. Parking will be located beneath the 54-room extension.
Old Town Hall Operating Co. is still waiting for a building permit from the Town of Huntington, Dobbs said. Once they receive that permit, he estimated construction on Hotel Huntington will take about 10 months. The hotel is expected to open next summer or fall.
Bob Scheiner, chairman of the Huntington Township Chamber of Commerce, said the organization is “excited” about the project moving forward.
“It’s going to mean jobs, and it’s going to mean a hotel in downtown Huntington, which we need,” Scheiner said.
Eric Alexander, executive director of Northport-based Vision Long Island, a smart-growth advocacy group, said the organization has long supported Hotel Huntington and believes it will work well in the village while providing an adaptive re-use for a historic building.
“You have the right mix of retail, arts, music and other attractions here, and there’s very little lodging activity north of Jericho Turnpike,” he said. “It’s unique. It’s something new in the downtown.”
Alexander praised the IDA’s decision to provide financial support as interest in downtown hotels grows. A boutique hotel is also being considered near the Huntington LIRR train station as an anchor project for Huntington Station master developer Renaissance Downtowns’ mixed-use revitalization plan.
“You want to show that these can work,” Alexander said.