03/02/14 1:00pm
03/02/2014 1:00 PM
The corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street downtown. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

The corner of Roanoke Avenue and East Main Street downtown. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Sixty-nine percent of people say they eat out when they are in downtown Riverhead and 42 percent say they walk along the river.

Those were among the results of a Downtown Riverhead Revitalization Survey to which 812 people responded last fall as part of a study of the downtown area. The survey was conducted in conjunction with a $610,000 Brownfi elds Area Opportunity (BOA) grant the town received from New York State to explore ways to improve traffi c and redevelop a section of Main Street stretching from West Main Street near Forge Road to East Main Street near Fairway Avenue.

The Riverhead Town Board discussed the study at its Thursday work session with representatives from consulting fi rm Nelson Pope and Voorhis and Sustainable Long Island, which are working together on the study.

“This input will help defi ne a vision statement for the study area and provide input for redevelopment scenarios,” said Amy Engel, executive director of Sustainable Long Island.

The study includes a recommendation to make Peconic Avenue a north-only road leading into downtown Riverhead.

In addition to eating and walking along the river, the survey, delivered mostly online, listed a number of other choices people could make in completing the sentence, “When in downtown Riverhead , I usually …” Those options included going shopping, selected by 39 percent, according to Ms. Engel, attending outdoor events (38 percent), going to a pub or tavern, visiting attractions and visiting family or friends (28 percent each) and attending live music or theater (22 percent).

When asked what they wished there were more of in downtown Riverhead, the respondents’ top answer was “unique shops,” at 65 percent, followed by cafes or coffee shops (54 percent), entertainment (50 percent), restaurants (43 percent), family-friendly activities (41 percent) and better sidewalks and paths (37 percent).

A footbridge over the Peconic River, something Southampton Town officials are working on for Riverside, was mentioned by 26 percent of the respondents.

Thirty-fi ve percent said they usually spend between $20 and $50 when they’re in the downtown area, while 30 percent spent between $50 and $100 and 16 percent spent more than $100.

And what do they spend that money on? Meals was the top answer, at 86 percent, followed by snacks or beverages at 48 percent, merchandise, at 46 percent, and admissions, at 26 percent.

So just who are these 812 survey respondents? Fifty-three percent were residents of Riverhead hamlet. Of the total, 22 percent said they are in Riverhead every day and 20 percent said they are in Riverhead about once a week, Ms. Engel said. Forty-eight percent of respondents are between 35 and 54 years old; 40 percent were older than 55.

The BOA grant survey also looked at census information from River-head and neighboring areas.

That data revealed a median household income of $50,824 for 2013 in the Riverhead Census Designation Place, which runs roughly from Osborn Avenue and Mill Road on the west to County Road 105 on the east.

People within what the survey called a “primary shopping area” — those within a 15-minute drive of downtown Riverhead — had a median household income of $73,440 for 2013. Those within a “secondary shopping area” — a 30-minute drive, but also including all of Southold and Shelter Island towns — had a 2013 median income of $79,587.

“I think Riverhead has a lower median income now for a different reason than it did in the past,” Supervisor Sean Walter said. “Now, I think the median income is low because we have a large senior citizen population and they are on a fi xed income.”

The BOA study also identified some types of businesses that the Riverhead area needs, including specialty food stores, book and music stores, furniture stores, auto parts stores and fl orists.

“Riverhead is unique, so the traditional retail gap analysis of the 15- and 30-minute drive time may not tell the whole picture,” consultant Charles Voorhis said. “One of the reasons spending is high is because you have Route 58.”

Mr. Voorhis said Route 58 provides things customers “need” while downtown has the opportunity to provide things costumers “want.”

Offi cials said town plans to hold the fi rst of two open house forums on the BOA study later this month to get more feedback from the public. The consultants hope to have a second public forum in the fall to release their recommendations.

tgannon@timesreview.com