Lifestyle: Spotlights

Bay Street Theater Is Moving

By Richard Lewin - December 16, 2020

In 1986, when “C.B.D.” stood for “Central Business District”, the Village of Sag Harbor Trustees, in cooperation with the New York State Secretary of State and the U.S. Office of Ocean and Coastal Resource Management, officially adopted a Local Waterfront Revitalization Program (“L.W.R.P.”). The Trustees agreed that there was a need to establish a zoning plan for the precious Waterfront (and the rest of the Village). Because of the special importance and uniqueness of the area, three wholly new Waterfront zoning districts were established to control future development: Resort Motel (“RM”), Waterfront (“WF”), and Marine (“MA”). 

B. Smith and Dan Gasby

According to Jack Youngs, Vice President of the Sag Harbor Historical Society, the Village’s awakening to the need for updated formal zoning was most likely prompted principally by a 1985 real estate development proposal. It would have permitted the conversion of what is considered the Village’s oldest dwelling, the beloved classic “Umbrella House” (now Cavaniola’s on Division Street), and the demolition of the adjacent building. They would be replaced by a combination of condominiums and a small shopping complex, to be called “Umbrella House Walk”. Thanks to the tireless efforts of Joan Tripp, 25-year President of the Society, the plan was defeated, to the delight of Village residents who feared any loss of historic local flavor. The position of opponents of the development at the time was that strip malls would cater only to tourists, citing the vacancies at the then-new Water Street Shops, which had opened in July of 1985.

With the recent Breaking News announcement by Bay Street Theater’s Executive Director Tracy Mitchell, that B.S.T. had purchased the Water Street Shops property at 22 West Water Street (now commonly referred to as “The 7-Eleven Property”) for the location of their future permanent new home, planned for 2023. The Village’s attention to zoning is once again in sharp focus. The Theater in its current location has been a beacon for the East End Arts community since opening there in 1991, so the move has major significance. Two of the three founders of Bay Street Theater, Emma Walton Hamilton and Stephen Hamilton, are pictured above. The third was the late Sybil Christopher.

Emma Walton Hamilton and Steve Hamilton

Recent real estate activity on Sag Harbor’s unique Waterfront area has resulted in the decision of the Village Trustees to declare a six-month moratorium on development, while zoning updates are considered. According to Sag Harbor Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, Nelson Pope & Voorhis, the Form-Based Codes Institute and Chuck Banas Design have been hired to study and recommend any zoning changes by January 2021. Of primary importance will be the preservation of the public’s visual and physical access to the water, and the maintenance of Sag Harbor as a village where walking is a primary means of local transportation. To this end, in 2019 Southampton Town purchased 1.25 acres of waterfront property for $10.5 million from the Community Preservation Fund, with the intention of creating the John Steinbeck Waterfront Park, design donated by Edmund Hollander Landscape Design, which will connect the Windmill and Long Wharf through a walkway under the Lance Corporal Jordan C. Haerter Veterans Memorial Bridge.

For seventeen years Dan Gasby and his late wife B. Smith (pictured above) owned the famous “B. Smith’s Restaurant” on Long Wharf. Dan was recently elected to the Board of Bay Street Theater. Whatever the future brings to the Sag Harbor Waterfront, his sentiments are shared by all who love the Village. Realizing that nothing in life is static, he is thrilled that Bay Street Theater will have its very own new entertainment and technology complex. He loves his Village, which he has always found to be more than sympathetic and supportive, with special thanks to Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy.

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