The following was written for Long Island Pulse Magazine, and was published online on February 22, 2016, and published in the March 2017 print edition. You can read the original online version here.
Riverhead, located at the mouth of the Peconic River on the North Fork of Long Island, is transforming from within. The area has been a county seat since 1727, which helped the relatively rural hub become a bustling downtown area that served as a center of commerce for the East End. As the township approved big box retail developments on Route 58, Riverhead’s Main Street struggled. Although the downtown is rebounding, there is still work to be done.
Enter Georgia Malone. The president of commercial real estate brokerage company Georgia Malone & Co. Inc. not only saw opportunity in downtown Riverhead, she invested in the area’s potential, transforming vacant buildings into effervescent modern offices. In October, Malone began leasing space at the newly renovated 20 West Main Street, a roughly 6,000-square-foot space that is breathing new life into the formerly abandoned business front. The building dates back to 1913; Malone’s restoration ensured each high-end workspace is comfortable and flexible for tenants—both in terms of rent and size.
Twenty West Main wasn’t Malone’s first foray into Riverhead’s future. In 2015, the developer converted the neighboring property, 30 West Main Street, into a series of offices that are almost fully leased. The 13,000-square-foot space is home to 35 offices of varying sizes designed to serve a diverse group. Leasers have the option to rent long-term or on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. The shared office space comes fully furnished and includes Wi-Fi, 24/7 secured access and smart TVs for presentations.
“We did it all,” Malone said, referring to the amenities within both properties. There is also a 1,000-square-foot lot behind 20 West Main that Malone plans to make “amazingly gorgeous” by planting “thousands of flowers.” Once the garden-like workspace is completed, Malone said tenants could hold outdoor meetings there or take a break during the workday. To the lawyer turned broker turned developer, it’s very important for her spaces to be pristine, state-of-the-art, usable and secure. “Everyone appreciates the safety and beauty of these projects. You are creating a community by making it beautiful for your tenant.”
Malone may just be the perfect candidate to tackle some of downtown Riverhead’s unorthodox challenges. Once a senior partner at a successful law firm, Malone decided to try her hand at becoming a commercial broker by following the established structure of other successful brokerages. The attempt initially failed. Things turned around with a convention-defying approach innovatively focused on selling properties that were off market. Malone matched potential buyers with sellers, effectively circumventing drawn out bidding wars.
Malone’s success snowballed, allowing her company to preside over billion dollar deals in Manhattan and beyond. Highlights of her company’s portfolio include 104 buildings totaling 2,900 apartments on the Upper West Side and Harlem, and another 322 apartments and 7 commercial units located within 13 buildings on the Upper East Side. Malone’s outside-of-the-box approach to the brokerage business eventually led her to downtown Riverhead’s development.
“It was very serendipitous,” she said, mentioning she was drawn by the new Suffolk Theater, restaurants that line Main Street, and her desire to be on Long Island and contribute to the region’s growth. Areas such as Brooklyn and the Bronx have smaller returns and, “You have to be aggressive to tenants. I didn’t have the stomach for that. I could never buy a building and throw anyone out.” Instead, Malone focused on the commercial end of the business and followed the model that brought her success. “You can’t do what everyone else is doing. Sometimes it’s very limiting to know the box. People are limited by their perceptions.”
Today, Malone’s unorthodoxy is bearing fruit. Both of her Riverhead properties represent a new direction for the town, which the developer believes should be driven by an intimate neighborhood setting. The community and local businesses are vested in Malone’s vision as well. “Adding this different type of aspect to our downtown is definitely a benefit to the area,” said Steven Shauger, general manager of the Hyatt Place East End and president of the town’s Business Improvement District. “Increasing local foot traffic is always a plus, and it’s great to have that shared common space.”