With history on their minds and personal memories in tow, more than 100 people showed support for the Milleridge Inn at a town hall-style meeting at the Knights of Columbus in Hicksville Oct. 7.
Most attendees left the meeting satisfied with what they heard as Kimco Realty, which purchased the property this past May, confirmed that it would like to keep the Inn and Cottage as a restaurant and catering hall and that they have already begun meeting with potential operators.
“As I was walking in I overheard someone say that ‘it’s a done deal’ and we have ‘bulldozers ready to tear it down.’” said Nick Brown, vice president of development with Kimco, a New Hyde Park-based company. “That is absolutely not the case. While we don’t exactly know what we are going to do with the site yet, we do hope to find an operator. We are sensitive to the history of the site and this will be a very deliberate process.”
When Kimco Realty purchased the site, it reached an agreement with owner Owen Smith to have him continue to operate the establishment until January 2016, at which time the day-to-day operations would transfer to a new proprietor. Smith, who attended the meeting and answered many questions, declined Kimco’s offer to continue running the site into 2016 until a new operator is found.
“It’s time for me to move forward,” said Smith, who plans on retiring. “I selected Kimco because I know them and they know and respect the community, as well as the history of the Milleridge.”
As for the Inn’s current employees, some of which Smith said have worked at the Inn for more than 30 years, there is a glimmer of hope that they will retain their jobs. Smith said he was required by law to send out Worker Adjustment and Retaining Notification (WARN) letters to all of his employees, but this does not necessarily mean they will all be laid off.
“I did send out WARN letters, as I am required to do,” he said. “But I am working with Kimco and I hope there can be some continuity with the employees.”
Smith also pledged to help any new operator of the site.
Kimco has hired two architectural firms, BKSK and Steward Preservation Services, both of which specialize in historical architecture, to look into the historical significance of the site. A representative from each firm spoke at the meeting, with each coming across as pro-preservation.
Joel Snodgrass, principal of Steward Preservation, addressed the concerns that the Milleridge Inn does not have Landmark status. He said such a status is only necessary when the owner of a site is acting in an uncooperative manner and ignores the historical significance of a site.
“Landmarking is not always necessary. The owners [Kimco] have elected to preserve the historical significance of the Milleridge Inn on their own, ahead of the curve,” said Snodgrass. “Landmarking would force them to take the proper precautions, but that is not necessary here.”
However, Kimco representatives could not confirm the fate of the Inn’s popular village, which consists of a handful of small specialty shops. Rumors swirled throughout the meeting that Kimco planned to remove the village in favor of a hotel—a possibility that Kimco did not confirm or deny.
“The short answer is that we are exploring all options,” Brown said about the village. “We will get feedback from the community and find out what is best. This is an open dialogue and this is not the last meeting.”
Sheila Doherty, who started the “Save the Milleridge” Facebook page and helped organize the meeting with James Muller, author of a petition to preserve the Inn, spoke about the shared family memories of the Inn that Long Islanders hold dear. Doherty said she had her wedding at the venue, as did many of her family members. She also expressed concern that the Inn would face the same fate as the nearby, and just as historic, Maine Maid Inn, which has deteriorated drastically in recent years.
“It’s a special place and it’s very important to all of us,” she said. “We do not want this to end up being another Maine Maid Inn.”