Sag Cinema Grant Hearing Scheduled

The Sag Harbor Cinema sign, which was restored after being damaged in a 2016 fire, is in storage in Bridgehampton. Jamie Bufalino

A proposal to use $4 million of the Town of Southampton’s community preservation fund to buy the development rights and a historic preservation easement on the Sag Harbor Cinema Arts Center will be the subject of a public hearing on Oct. 23 at 6 p.m. at Southampton Town Hall. The town has been negotiating with the Sag Harbor Partnership, which bought the movie theater site for $8 million after the building was largely destroyed by fire in December 2016. 

According to Mary Wilson, who manages the community preservation fund for the town, a restrictive use easement would mandate that the property remain an arts center in perpetuity. The easement also would require the building’s exterior, including its iconic neon “Sag Harbor” sign, to remain unchanged unless approved by the town.

In other proposed conditions, retail space in the building would be limited to 25 percent of its total square footage, ticket prices would be capped at 80 percent of the average price of local movie tickets, and the town would be given a right of first refusal if the property is put up for sale. The $4 million figure, said Ms. Wilson, was arrived at by an appraisal and in consideration of the partnership’s relinquishing the opportunity to sell the property for an alternate commercial use. A groundbreaking ceremony for the cinema center was held in June, after which crews began working on the building’s foundation. The partnership has estimated the overall cost of the project at $6 million. 

The sign, which was damaged during the fire, has been restored to its former Art Deco glory thanks to the efforts of Christopher Denon, the owner of Twin Forks Moving and Storage, who had been storing it since it was rescued from the rubble on the night of the fire. The hands-on repair was done by John Battle of Battle Iron and Bronze in Bridgehampton, who offered his services pro bono, and Clayton Orehek, a neon artist, who was paid by Mr. Denon. “It was emotional when we relit it,” Mr. Denon said. 

Susan Mead, the treasurer of the partnership, released a statement celebrating the proposal. The easements, she said, would “provide the ultimate protection for the cinema” and preserve “the restored facade and sign for generations to come. We look forward to the public hearing.”