By Tessa Raebeck
A week after the Division Street property of the former Stella Maris Regional School was put on the market, Sag Harbor Village is awash with ideas and discussion about how to use the space.
“There’s a lot of interest, actually,” Robert Evjen, a broker at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Sag Harbor, said Wednesday of the .74-acre property, which is listed at $3.5 million.
The building is 32,234 square feet and is a pre-existing, non-conforming commercial space in a residential zone. It is essentially zoned for offices or classrooms, Mr. Evjen said, “so any change in use would have to go in front of the board… I think that the best use would be probably what it’s zoned for right now.”
Although parking at the site is limited, Mr. Evjen said the building itself is in “good shape.” The school has a full gymnasium, a kitchen and “a great space for a community center,” he said. It would require “some upgrading” in terms of bringing in high-speed cable and other technical improvements, he said.
“There’s so many uses,” said Mr. Evjen, adding there’s a population in the village that needs affordable housing and over 20 local not-for-profits that are “looking for a home.”
“There’s been several suggestions by so many people—maybe the school should buy it, maybe the village should buy it, maybe it could become an incubator where our business community and artists and writers community would be in there, and also help our kids work with them on their interests—it’s got a lot of opportunities,” said Mr. Evjen.
“The majority of people would like to see the village play a part in either ownership or leasing,” he continued. “I think it would be in the best interest of Sag Harbor to have the village play some part in it, whether it’s the school or it’s the not-for-profits, that would probably be the best use.”
Sag Harbor’s Board of Education President Theresa Samot said Sunday that the school district had not “begun a process of review or analysis of this property.” However, on Monday, the board did discuss real estate during an executive session.
“The board of education is discussing it,” Superintendent Katy Graves said on Tuesday, although she would provide no specifics.
“There’s always concerns” about additional space in the district, Ms. Graves said. “We’ve seen a steady increase in our population over the last six or seven years that we are now over 1,000 students here in the district. So, that’s definitely a concern for the district.”
The superintendent added that Sag Harbor currently pays for students who require special education to be placed elsewhere, due to a lack of space in the district. Another financial consideration, Ms. Graves said, is the prevalence of out-of-district families who pay tuition to send their students to Sag Harbor.
“We have over a half a million dollars in revenue that comes in from parents that…select Sag Harbor as their school district,” she added. “So, that’s a fairly substantial revenue stream that Sag Harbor would never want to do without because we don’t have room for them.”
While a purchase does not appear to be off the table for the school district, the village appears to be uninterested in the listing. Sag Harbor resident and Harbor Committee member Jeffrey Peters asked the village board last week whether it had considered purchasing the property, saying it could be used as a village meeting place or community center.
The board did not express any desire to look into the property and Mayor Brian Gilbride confirmed last Wednesday he has no interest in purchasing it.
“We’re optimistic that it will be beneficial to the village and the community, whatever it winds up being,” Mr. Evjen said. “Of course, we get our difficult developers in there that always look for some sort of development.”
David Kronman, a spokesman for Cape Advisors, the development firm responsible for the projects at the Watchcase Factory and Baron’s Cove, said Tuesday that his firm has not looked into the Stella Maris property.
“I think it’s unlikely that we’re going to consider it,” Mr. Kronman said. “I just think between finishing up Watchcase and Baron’s Cove—we’re going to focus on executing and finishing those projects, and if other opportunities exist we’ll probably take a look at that, but I don’t know if Stella Maris fits with what we’re trying to do.”
St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church, a parish of the Diocese of Rockville Centre, owns the Division Street property. Stella Maris was the oldest Catholic school on Long Island, having operated for 134 years when the diocese closed it at the end of the 2011 school year due to a $480,000 deficit. Parents tried to drum up support to keep the school open, but enrollment declined in reaction to the financial difficulties and Stella Maris’s doors remained shut.
In the two-and-a-half years since Stella Maris closed, there have been two unsuccessful attempts to open pre-schools in the building and it has occasionally been used for fundraisers and village police training.
When reached by phone Tuesday afternoon, the Reverend Peter Deveraj of St. Andrew’s, said he had no comment about the church’s decision to list the property at this time. Sean Dolan, communications director for the Diocese of Rockville Centre, has not returned requests for comment.