As summer has come to a close but the Hamptons market stays hot, the Soloviev Group is set to take a bite out of the North Fork.
Stacey Soloviev, ex-wife of Soloviev Group chairman Stefan Soloviev, is planning a 40-key boutique hotel on her Peconic Bay Vineyard in Cutchogue. Her ex-husband bought the 53-acre winery in 2019, where Soloviev hopes to develop the hotel as a “full immersion into wine.”
Guests can expect to help harvest and bottle the latest vintages, cook with visiting chefs and enjoy wine pairings with their meals.
In addition to the main building, the resort will feature between five and eight separate poolside bungalows, a spa and 12,000 square feet of roadside retail shops. Soloviev says she doesn’t have retail tenants lined up yet, but wants a wine, cheese and caviar store to complement the vineyard, as well as a general store.
Soloviev reopened the property’s tasting room this May after an eight year hiatus. The project joined her crowded plate of local projects, alongside running the iconic Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm in Cutchogue, which Stefan Soloviev bought for $1.8 million in 2019, and overseeing a recent gut renovation at Soloviev Group’s 37-key Chequit Inn on Shelter Island.
Soloviev has brought on New York-based architect Glen Coben — whose firm, Glen & Company, specializes in luxury hotels, restaurants and residential units — to design the new resort. She also aims to bring on Chef Noah Schwartz, who is already working on the Chequit, to spearhead a five-star eatery on the premises.
With the new hotel, the Soloviev Group is poised to capitalize on the area’s bustling wine scene and rising status as an alternative to more exclusive Hamptons enclaves.
“Folks are beginning to liken it to Sonoma 20 years ago, where you could really escape and not be bogged down with overwhelmingly touristy folks,” said Erik Warner, co-founder of Eagle Point Hotel Partners. Warner’s firm has bought and renovated two hotels in the North Fork — the Soundview and the Harborfront Inn — since 2016.
The North Fork has long been the sleepy, agricultural counterweight to the glitzier scene down on the Hamptons. But during the pandemic, as booming sales and scant availabilities made the Hamptons more exclusive than ever, many would-be visitors began looking north.
Even with increased demand, the North Fork’s housing stock, particularly for vacationers, hasn’t kept up.
“There’s a hotel shortage. The North Fork is growing tremendously, but a lot of the growth is coming in the area of residential and retail, not so much in hotels,” said Michael Hershman, CEO of Soloviev Group. “We saw an opportunity there to expand our hospitality group.”
As more visitors have brought Michelin stars and traffic jams, they’ve also raised the blood pressure of preservation-minded locals. And Southold County’s zoning code translates some of that skepticism toward development into explicit government policy, with large swaths of the region dedicated to low-density residential sprawl.
“It’s very hard to develop on the North Fork,” Warner said. “It will always be hard to develop on the North Fork, because not a lot of land is zoned for hotels.”
Soloviev has shown initial plans to Southold officials, whom she said were “very receptive.” However, she acknowledges gaining approval from locals will be critical.
“It is very difficult and that’s why from the beginning I’m including them. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on design if this is something they’re gonna fight me on,” she said.
Hershman acknowledges community pushback could be a problem. “There’s nothing that gets built on the North Fork that doesn’t have some degree of community concern,” he said. Still, he maintains the hotel will fit the scale of the neighborhood.
“We’re talking about a boutique hotel: maybe 40 rooms, 45 rooms,” Hershman said. “I would hope that the community sees this as an added value for all of them.”
But even if Cutchogians push back, Soloviev holds a trump card: Her vineyard is split-zoned between residential and business, with the area along the road planned for commercial uses. That gives Soloviev nearly six acres of commercially zoned land to build the hotel as-of-right. According to the town zoning code, the development could cover 30 percent of the land — just over 74,000 square feet — and reach up to 35 feet tall.
Still, Coben says they’re planning to build far less than that.
“We don’t want to max out the square footage of what is allowable. We want to start from the standpoint of what is respectful, in terms of using the land properly, and making sure that there’s ample room between each of these programmatic pieces,” he said.
The project is still in early stages. “My hope is permitting takes a year and then construction takes 18 months, but obviously that’s anyone’s guess,” she said of her timeline.
If all goes well, Soloviev Group wants to continue to build its footprint on the North Fork. The firm already operates 123 acres of vineyards in the area, and plans to plant an additional 24 in the spring.
“We have plenty of room to expand,” Hershman said.