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Feb 13, 2013 9:42 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Konner Buys Land In Bridgehampton Once Targeted By Barnes & Noble

Feb 13, 2013 11:24 AM

A new developer has purchased several lots across the street from the Bridgehampton Commons, properties once targeted by Barnes & Noble Booksellers for the creation of a sprawling new shopping center.

Carol Konner, a Water Mill-based developer, bought the five properties totaling just over 10 acres, last month from Barnes & Noble’s former president, Leonard Riggio, for an as-yet-undisclosed sum. Ms. Konner, who already owns the 3 acres of land immediately to the west of her new acquisitions, said this week that she has not come up with a plan for the use of the now more than 13 acres of developable land she controls.

“I don’t know what form it will take yet,” Ms. Konner said in a phone interview from Florida. “I don’t like conflict, though, so I want to do what the town and the residents would like to see there, what is needed. I’m not looking for a strip mall or a Woodbury Commons-type thing—that is not what the Hamptons is about.”

Ms. Konner said that she plans to begin meeting with engineers and lawyers in March to discuss the possibilities for the property. When she expects she will have a proposal to present to the community is still unknown, she said.

Bridgehampton Citizens Advisory Committee member Fred Cammann, who recalled the rough road Mr. Riggio went down nearly a decade ago with his ambitious proposal, said he fully expects that Ms. Konner will involve the community early in her planning of the land’s future.

“I’m sure there will be a lot of interest in this, and a lot of gnashing of teeth,” Mr. Cammann said. “Somebody is going to have to come in and negotiate an intelligent compromise. Carol Konner is too smart not to do that. I imagine she will bring in a [planning consultant] to work on it with her, and they will figure out something that works there. It certainly should be developed.”

Public outcry over the extent of the Barnes & Noble proposal stalled attempts by the bookseller and members of the Town Board to advance the project. The plans called for 90,000 square feet of retail stores, anchored by a 20,000-square-foot bookstore. Residents, already sensitive to development pressures thanks to three substantial commercial projects proposed for the downtown area in less than a year, objected to the traffic impacts the giant development would have had on the hamlet’s only thoroughfare.

The land is zoned for highway business, a designation that allows for a variety of retail and restaurant uses. Mr. Riggio and his company had proposed using the then-newly approved “planned development district,” or PDD, designation to free themselves from the restrictions.

Known as the Bridgehampton Gateway, the project never had strong support from members of the Town Board. In 2003, the proposal was one of the catalysts for town legislation that capped the size of commercial buildings in the highway business districts at 15,000 square feet in an attempt to block “big box” retailers, like Barnes & Noble, from moving to the South Fork.

The land, which was until recently owned by Barnes & Noble and an LLC created by Mr. Riggio, is mostly vacant. A Carvel ice cream shop stands on one of the lots, and a long-abandoned restaurant building occupies a portion of another lot. The 3-acre property that Ms. Konner and a partner, J.R. Siwicki, have owned since before the Barnes & Noble proposal is mostly an open field, known as Strawberry Fields, that hosts an annual carnival and occasional exhibitions.

In the midst of the planing of the ill-fated Barnes & Noble shopping center, it was discovered that one of the lots had been purchased at a tax sale by Steven and Ralph Macchio—the actor and his father—after the Barnes & Noble president failed to pay taxes on the land. The Macchios claimed that they had no idea about the plans for the property when they bought the land and had been formulating their own plans to put a single commercial building on the property. In 2010, a federal judge declared the tax sale to the Macchios illegal because the owners had not been properly notified of the tax default and ordered the transfer vacated, awarding the land back to Mr. Riggio’s company. The 1.2-acre parcel, which Barnes & Noble had purchased in 1996, was one of those sold to Ms. Konner this week.

In the Bridgehampton Gateway proposal, the Strawberry Fields lots were to be part of the larger project, and would have been sold to the retailer after the plans were approved. But shortly after the discovery of the tax sale to the Macchios put the Barnes & Noble project on hold, Ms. Konner and Mr. Sawicki instead proposed constructing two commercial buildings—of 13,000 and 14,000 square feet—that conformed to the existing zoning, on their land.

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Costco?Home Depot?
By Toma Noku (616), uptown on Feb 15, 13 7:58 AM
1 member liked this comment
"I want to do what the town and the residents would like to see there, what is needed. I’m not looking for a strip mall or a Woodbury Commons-type thing—that is not what the Hamptons is about.” Good to hear a developer speaking this way. I hope she sticks to her word.
By dagdavid (646), southampton on Feb 15, 13 9:46 AM
perhaps it would be a good place for a new and bigger citarellas!
By LovinLife (61), East Quogue on Feb 15, 13 5:43 PM
I heard Hooters was going in there!!
By johnnyhampton (82), Southampton on Feb 15, 13 9:05 PM
1 member liked this comment
Ms. Konner, please, if you develop the property commercially consider the architectural integrity of the region. You will be lauded if you are sensitive to the historical element. Maybe even a pedestrian friendly layout with a playground for au pairs to play with the children while their parents shop. Feel free to contact me if your would like to consult with me.
By Chronis Landscaping (1), Southampton on Feb 20, 13 6:38 PM