By Maya Brown, Kimberly Brown and Samuel Rowland
A Huntington-based hospitality corporation received $2.8 million tax break on Feb. 17 to renovate an old town hall as part of a plan to attract visitors to the village. The benefits are part of a $24 million proposal to transform the 110-year-old historic town hall building.
The developers plan to take down less than 25% of the existing building, according to the project overview from the Hospitality Valuation Services (HVS) Market Study.
“The plans under consideration for approval by the Town Board successfully preserves the integrity of the Old Town Hall building and it will appear as a distinct element,” Robert Hughes, town historian and secretary of the Huntington Preservation Commission, said. “The building’s exterior appearance will be preserved.”
Built in 1910, the Old Town Hall is part of the Historic Building Overlay District, which was created to protect historically significant buildings. In 1979, all of the town departments were moved into the old Huntington High School building and the Old Town Hall hasn’t been in use since then, Hughes said.
“The Historic Preservation Commission recommended approval of the plans because they do not adversely affect the historic character of the Old Town Hall building, nor of the historic district,” Hughes said.
The main concern that residents have is how the plan will affect parking, Daniel Karpen, a resident of Huntington said. Although the original plan was to create a 55-room hotel, the most recent plan includes an 80-room hotel.
“We’ve already got some severe parking issues now and the Town has not addressed it,” Matt Harris, resident of Huntington and member of community group Huntington Matters said.
The apartments over commercial properties are supposed to be within the confines of the Town code. In order to comply with the regulations of the town, residents must have sufficient parking. However, this rule has been overlooked and the new hotel plan could affect parking even further.
“It is the CBA [Community Benefits Agreement] that has created the problem of parking, by allowing parking variances,” Harris said. “There wasn’t a sufficient amount of parking. There’s almost 200 residents [in apartments] that have to park in municipal lots because they didn’t create parking for them.”
Planning for overflow, the Town plans to license 20 spaces in the parking lot of the current Town Hall, in addition to the 40 parking spots that will be on-site.
“I want them to downsize the hotel from 80 to 39 rooms because, with 80 rooms, they’d need 90 parking spaces for rooms and staff, making downtown Huntington even harder to park in,” Karpen said.
However, the Town has additionally purchased a parking lot that will add 71 new official parking spaces to a corner of the downtown village, Public Information Officer for the Town of Huntington Lauren Lembo said.
“We also made changes to our Traffic Code designed to discourage parking violations so that parking rules are adhered to, there is a rapid turnover of parking spaces and spots are available to improve the overall Huntington village experience,” she said.
The downtown Huntington hotel is expected to become a popular attraction, as it is surrounded by a shopping and dining district. “The neighborhood, however, lacks a centerpiece that the proposed subject property is anticipated to become,” according to the HVS Market Study.
The opening of the hotel is planned for the second quarter of 2021.