‘Master developer’ picked for Riverside revitalization

TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Route 24 in Riverside, an area plagued by blight and crime.
TIM GANNON FILE PHOTO | Route 24 in Riverside, an area plagued by blight and crime.

The “master developer” of Riverside has been chosen.

The Southampton Town Board on Tuesday voted unanimously to authorize Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst to execute an agreement with Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns to lead planning and development efforts for the town’s Riverside Revitalization Action Plan.

The board plans to discuss Renaissance Downtowns and its plan at a public work session on Dec. 5.

“We are very excited about this,” said Councilwoman Christine Scalera, who co-sponsored Tuesday’s resolution with the supervisor. “It’s an important first step in the revitalization of that area.”

Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

The Riverside area has long been plagued by lack of businesses, large amounts of land off the tax rolls, poverty, blight and crime. It has one of the lowest median incomes on Long Island, according to the U.S. Census.

The Southampton Town Board had issued a “request for qualifications” for a Riverside master developer in August and received three responses, with Renaissance Downtowns being recommended by the town’s land management department.

The company is currently involved in downtown revitalization projects in Huntington Station and Hempstead as well as the the 92-acre Nassau County “hub” property in Uniondale, where the Nassau Coliseum is located.

Another company, Forrest City Ratner, led by Barclay Center developer Bruce Ratner, is handling the redevelopment of the coliseum, while Renaissance Downtowns is doing the non-arena portion of the plan, according to Brandon Palanker, Renaissance’s vice president of V.P. of marketing and public affairs.

Mr. Palanker said in an interview that the group expects to break ground on the Hempstead and Huntington Station projects next year.

As for Riverside, Mr. Palanker pointed out that Renaissance’s vice president of planning and development, Sean McLean, is a Flanders resident who is very familiar with the area.

“We’ve seen tremendous things happening on the other side of the river in Riverhead,” Mr. Palanker said. “The Town of Southampton has certain needs, whether it be creating more residential sites or building up the tax base or creating more mom-and-pop-type retail in a walkable community, and we feel the Riverside area presents a perfect opportunity to provide that.”

As for some of the environmental constraints that has hindered development in Riverside in the past, Mr. Palanker said, “Every development opportunity has its hurdles, and the environment certainly is one of them. But they can be overcome.”

He said Renaissance is both a planning organization and a developer and seeks to get feedback from the community through areas like social networking.

“Part of the plan is for Renaissance Downtowns to set up a storefront on Flanders Road with the idea that it be an accessible and visible place for property owners to come in and talk about larger plans for the area,” Ms. Throne-Holst said in an interview.

She said plans for finding a Riverside master developer started in the town’s Riverside Economic Task Force about three years ago.

“I think this is just what is needed to change the area,” said councilman-elect Brad Bender, who is a former president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association. “It’s not just Riverside. It’s a regional thing. You’ve got the Summerwind apartments in Riverhead opening up, for instance. This area is really starting to come around.”

[email protected]

Looking to comment on this article? Send us a letter to the editor instead.