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Dirt Flies on Big East End Building Projects

Suddenly, the dirt is flying throughout the Hamptons. What an amazing thing this is in the middle of a recession. Some of these projects, some of which are in excess of $10 million, involve government funding, but most are underway with funding from the private sector. All in all, the quantity of these projects are transforming the commercial districts of Southampton, Bridgehampton and Sag Harbor.

Perhaps the most exciting single project is the big transformation of the old abandoned former Bulova Watchcase Factory in Sag Harbor. The renovation of the building took years to climb over bureaucratic hurdles, overcame a funding collapse for three years between 2008 and 2011 by the developer and finally is underway, approved by a grateful village who in truth are just sick and tired of seeing an abandoned factory sitting unused downtown over the last 30 years. The watchcase factory is to become 65 spacious residential condominiums and townhouse-style apartments. Walls are coming down, workmen are busy cleaning out refuse, temporary plywood has been removed – and still village hall has to listen to people grousing, now about the dust and noise!! [expand]

Perhaps the most transforming construction activity involves three separate projects on three of the four corners of the town center of Bridgehampton. When these projects come to their conclusion in the next year and a half, you will hardly recognize the place. Two of the three projects involve saving 19th century structures, and the third will be an office building in the same 19th century style as the other two.

On the northwest corner, the old beverage store has been torn down along with the Robbins-Wolfe house and what’s coming are two two-story tall retail/office spaces that will wrap around the corner. One, called 10 Lumber Lane, is to be brick whereas the other building on the site, facing the monument, is to be shingled. The developer is Lenny Ackerman of East Hampton.

On the northeast corner of the center of town, the former Bull’s Head Inn (its real name is the Judge Abraham Topping Rose House) is being saved through the efforts of developer Bill Campbell, a former chief executive of a Fortune 500 Company. In addition to the Inn, an existing barn on the property will become a conference hall, there will be a spa, an outdoor lap pool, three new cottages and a large parking lot.

On the southeast corner, the Nathaniel Rogers House, for nearly half a century in serious disrepair, is being renovated by the Bridgehampton Historical Society with much funding from the Town, the State and private donations. Construction has been moving along smartly in these last few months and this month, workmen are painting the exterior, replacing the windows and flashing the roof. It is expected to be finished and open to the public by July 4, 2013. Spearheading the creation of this project after the town acquired it in 2003 was Wall Street banker, Dennis Suskind, who at the time was serving as a town councilman.

The $10 million renovation of the beautiful early 20th century John Jermain Library in Sag Harbor has started. The main building renovation, which includes the repair of the beautiful historic dome, is scheduled to be completed by 2013 and will double the square footage of the library to just over 14,000 square feet. Indeed, there will be a whole new wing.

Also in Sag Harbor the owners of Baron’s Cove Inn, KBR Fund, and Cape Advisors, which is the firm that is managing the renovations, have already gained permission to renovate the exterior of the existing motel and are now looking to the village planning board for permission to remove an existing office and construct a new lobby and restaurant space overlooking Sag Harbor’s waterfront. Reports say prospects are good for work to begin this spring.

Then there is the largest project of all. In Water Mill the New Parrish Art Museum, projected to cost about $25 million and open in 2012, is on 14 acres on the north side of Montauk Highway, and has been very publicly under construction and visible to everyone driving on route 27 through Water Mill for the last eight months. When it is completed it will be the first art museum built on the East End of Long Island in more than a century. About 34,500 square feet in size, it has been designed by the world-renowned architectural firm of Herzog & de Meuron and is being built by Ben Krupinski. It will be the cultural centerpiece and most recognizable architectural landmark of the region.

Finally, there has been a ground breaking on the property of the St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Amagansett. The new project is for 40 low income apartment units, each about 600 square feet, that will be constructed next to the church. Included in the plan is a superintendent’s apartment and a community center room. It will be offered up to residents 62 years of age and older, who have an annual income of $30,000 or less.

These are the most visible of the big projects now underway. There are also others. Which leaves us with one lingering question, a tall proposal if ever there was one. Perhaps the ultimate symbol of the Hamptons rising to new heights or back to its old heights would be the reconstruction of the Old Whalers’ Church steeple in Sag Harbor. The church was designed by Minard Lefever in an Egyptian Revival style and constructed in its final form in 1844 with a steeple rising to 185 feet, making it by far the tallest structure on Long Island. However during the Hurricane of 1938, the steeple came down and shattered to smithereens. The rest of the church remains. Estimates claim restoration of the steeple would be about $3 million. Hello!! Anybody out there?

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