Dinosaurs could be coming downtown

Barbaraellen Koch file photo | Employees of the Dinosaur Walk set up shop in Riverhead in 2004.
Barbaraellen Koch file photo | Employees of the Dinosaur Walk set up shop in Riverhead in 2004.

The Second Street firehouse building could be renovated into an interactive dinosaur museum and theater under a plan being floated by Suffolk Theater owner Bob Castaldi, who outlined the proposal at Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting.

The town recently sent out requests for proposals for both the firehouse — which the town acquired from the fire district in a swap for the Route 58 training grounds — and the East Lawn building on East Main Street, which is used by four organizations but is in very bad condition.

Mr. Castaldi, who has a background in historic renovations, responded to both proposals.

There had been a Dinosaur Walk museum on East Main Street in 2004, but it featured only statues of dinosaurs that didn’t move or interact, and it closed in 2007. That same building was being proposed for an interactive dinosaur exhibit in 2012, but Supervisor Sean Walter said it won’t be opening.

For the firehouse, he is proposing to renovate and lease it — to a tenant he did not identify — who would build an interactive dinosaur theater and museum there, which would have an educational and entertainment component, he said.

“I can see this becoming a real destination place for families with their kids,” Mr. Castaldi told the board. “Schools too.”

He’s estimating that between 200 and 300 kids could be accommodated at the site, which he said will be called “Dino Live Theater.”

“They’ve got actual 30-foot long-dinosaurs (costumes) that guys get in,” Mr. Castaldi said. “They look as real as can be…their heads move and they run around.”

The dinosaurs interact with children and people in the audience, he said.

“I think it would just fit in fantastically with the aquarium, the science museum, and the railroad museum” Mr. Castaldi said, referring to Long Island Aquarium and the Long Island Science Center in downtown Riverhead, and the Railroad Museum of Long Island on Railroad Street.

Town Board members, who were supportive of the proposal, asked him to bring the tenant to a future meeting to show the dinosaur theater proposal.

There had been a proposal to move the town historian, the Community Awareness Program, the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce and the Riverhead Housing Development Corporation from the East Lawn building to the firehouse, where the Suffolk County Historical Society also had been interested in expanding its exhibition space to.

But Mr. Castaldi proposed to buy the East Lawn building and the firehouse, and then lease the East Lawn building back to the town so those agencies could continue to be located there.

“That place needs a tremendous amount of work,” he said.