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Changing Face of Main Street

Posted on 31 July 2009

web 125 Main C

As the architect for Sag Harbor commercial property owner James Giorgio, Chuck Thomas has changed the face of Bridge Street, taking the once infamous Havens bar and nightclub, and turning the one-story building into a brand new two-story retail and apartment space that draws women with yoga mats rather than late night revelers.

On Monday, July 27, Thomas approached the Village of Sag Harbor Historic Preservation and Architectural Review Board (ARB) with a plan to revamp another classic Sag Harbor space – 125 Main Street, which currently houses The Gallery, and was once home to longtime photography business, Chelsea Crossing.

According to Thomas, the building at 125 Main Street is in dire need of repairs, and major repairs at that, including a completely new foundation for the whole of the structure.

“Three-quarters of the house, right now the joists are on dirt,” said Thomas adding there is a very small cellar-like space, not much larger than the table the ARB sits at, that one can peer at the dilapidated foundation from.

Thomas said what Giorgio would like to do is lift the entire building and construct a new foundation. The design of the building, he said, can go one of two ways. He wants to rebuild and restore the building entirely, said Thomas, however, he would like to make use of a basement type space for retail if the ARB was inclined to allow such a change.

The building is zoned for first floor retail and one second story residential use, said Thomas, but the entrance to the retail portion of the building has traditionally been reached by stairway – not quite inviting for passing shoppers, he said.

“It’s perfect for a home, but for retail it is hard to get people from the sidewalk up,” said Thomas.

Giorgio intends to refinish the entire interior, “a gut redo,” said Thomas, and one idea the architect said he liked was converting the existing basement into retail use by leaving a stone wall at the street level and excavating behind the wall to create the space.

ARB Chairman Cee Scott Brown said he believed this would be a larger issue than one the ARB should be looking at first.

“I don’t think I am going to do myself any favors going to the planning board without coming here first,” said Thomas. “One of the first things they will ask me is what the ARB thinks.”

“The first thing I want to ask you is what the planning board thinks,” responded Brown.

Thomas cautioned he has no intentions of expanding the square footage of either the retail or residential portions of the building and if new retail space is created at the basement level, they would remove the square footage from additions that have been tacked on the rear of the building.

Thomas added if the board was opposed to the idea of basement retail, he would seek to reconstruct the space as is.

“It’s an interesting concept and done well it could be very nice,” said board member Michael Mensch.

“It is treacherous getting up there,” agreed board member Diane Schiavoni, who said she liked the concept.

“Our primary concern is we would like to see something done to stop deterioration from happening,” added Brown. Brown later added he was sure the applicant would have “some challenging times ahead” despite the board’s support.

In other ARB news, arborist Michael Gaines wrote the board asking for permission to take down a maple at Franklin and High Streets, although the board was unconvinced.

“I am exhibiting signs of needing to be taken away, but I have some concerns about what they want here,” joked Brown, adding he would like to have the board hear this request from Gaines in person.

“It looks fairly young, actually,” noted Mensch. “The caliper is not that great.”

Former board member Robert Tortora was approved for changes in his building permit for an Oakland Avenue residence to add dormer windows on the second story. Scott Landau was also approved for alterations at his Suffolk Street home and Nicole Seligman was also approved for an addition at her Suffolk Street residence.

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