Just last week, artist and businesswoman Elizabeth Dow was before the Sag Harbor Village Planning Board presenting her plans to re-develop the former home of the Sag Harbor United Methodist Church into her place of business.
However, this week entrepreneur Sloan Schaffer announced that he has signed a contract with property owner Dennis Suskind to purchase the historic church with plans to restore the building and make it a home for his family.
If Schaffer closes on the property, it will be the second proposal where the church is conceived to become a single-family home since Suskind purchased the building in 2008. At the time the former Southampton Town councilman and retired partner at Goldman Sachs & Co. said he hoped to make the church a home for his own family. However, after running into budgetary concerns over the re-design, Suskind re-listed the property with his real estate agent Scott Strough of Strough Real Estate.
It then sat on the market for over two years until Dow contracted to buy the former church in the fall of 2010. Dow proposed to move her company — Elizabeth Dow Mixed Media, a textile and wall covering design firm and studio — to Sag Harbor, where in addition to her studio and retail space she would also host her internship program.
She has yet to close on the property, and on Monday declined comment on the news of Schaffer’s contract with Suskind.
On Monday, Schaffer — an architect who calls himself an entrepreneur with a diverse resume in business, much focused into the art world — said he has had his eye on the former church since it was listed by Suskind in 2008.
While Schaffer had toured the building, he said his focus turned to other aspects of life until this summer when he reached out to Strough again and said he would like to revisit the project.
“I have an incredible vision for what I think this building could become as a residence,” said Schaffer, who signed the contract with Suskind two weeks ago.
Schaffer said he does not want to alter the building’s exterior aesthetic, but rather preserve it. If his project moves forward, Schaffer said he plans to remove the existing aluminum siding cladding the historic church and replace it with wood. The exterior of the building would otherwise be fully restored, with the property landscaped.
“We want to do this because we really love Sag Harbor and feel a kindred connection to the village, which is one of the reasons we want to preserve this building,” said Schaffer.
On the interior, while the church would be made into a residence, Schaffer said he wants to preserve as much of the original character and spaces within the building as possible. Currently, he envisions a three-bedroom residence, and said he has the financial means to begin the project immediately, and finish it quickly.
Schaffer has already reached out to several Sag Harbor architects, he said, and has one in mind for the project although he declined to name the architect until he closes on the property. Schaffer added that he plans to work with a team of locals in developing the property, most coming directly from Sag Harbor Village.
Educated as an architect, Schaffer said now he has his hands in multitude of businesses, including real estate, and is heavily involved in the arts, both as a collector and gallery owner. In 2008, according to the gallery’s website, he opened the 101/exhibit space in Miami.
The gallery is dedicated to showing, and preserving, the artwork of “modern masters and emerging artists” by bringing their work to collectors by displaying them in a 5,000 square-foot space in the heart of Miami’s Design District.
Currently, according to Art Fix Daily, the gallery is preparing to feature “Undertow,” new art by Los Angeles based expressionist figurative painter Jason Shawn Alexander. That show opens in December.
Despite having business dealings in real estate, Schaffer did stress that he does intend to live in the church himself, and is not looking at the property as an investment. For the last six years, he said, he has been spending time in the village and has grown to love the area.
“I want to do what I think is best for the church and the community at large,” said Schaffer, who believes the church should remain a residentially zoned. “We are prepared to come in with almost an open budget and fix that church. I think this is an incredible opportunity for my family and I, but more importantly for the history of the church and the village. That building needs to be properly maintained.”
“It will be a pristine and shining example of the history of the building,” said Schaffer of his vision. “And we will maintain it as an important landmark in the village.”