Revitalization project gets a name: ‘Riverside Rediscovered’

A show of hands on Monday night for 'Riverside Rediscovered,' the name of the project to revitalize the hamlet. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
A show of hands on Monday night for ‘Riverside Rediscovered,’ the name of the project to revitalize the hamlet. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

And the winner is… “Riverside Rediscovered.”

That’s the name attendees at Monday’s Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association chose for the upcoming effort to revitalize Riverside, which has long been one of the more impoverished and crime-ridden hamlets in the county. 

Monday night’s FRNCA meeting was intended to represent a kick off of Renaissance Downtown’s “master developer” project, an effort that’s been in the works over the past six months.

And step one was branding the project.

Southampton Town recently signed a contract with Plainview-based Renaissance Downtowns to be a “master developer” of Riverside, a job that entails the company spending its own money to come up a plan to revive the area and then follow through on it.

In Renaissance’s other master developer projects in Hempstead, Huntington Station and Bristol, Connecticut, the company has asked the community to come up with a name for the effort, which is also the name of the web site for the redevelopment project.

So, in the tradition of “Renew Hempstead,” “Bristol Rising,” and “Source the Station,” Renaissance on Monday asked residents to vote on the name for the Riverside plan.

They started out with nine suggestions, such as “Peconic Placemaking,” “New Hampton,” “Redefine Riverside,” and “Riverside Calling”, and then added some more suggestions from the audience, such as “Riverside Renaissance,” “Riverside Rising,” and “Come Alive Riverside.”

The audience members voted by show of a hands.

“Riverside Rising” was shot down, in part because it brought back some bad memories from Hurricane Sandy, when the riverside rose about five feet and flooded out everything near it.

“Riverside Revival?”

“It sounds too much like church,” one woman said.

“Riverside Renaissance?”

That one didn’t sit well with Neil Takemoto of CSPM Group, which handles the “crowd source place making” for Renaissance. He thought it sounded too much like self-promotion for Renaissance Downtowns. Audience members agreed, or at least, they didn’t vote for it.

It came down to a final battle between “Riverside Rediscovered” and “Riverside Now.”

“Rediscovered” won handily, and so “Riverside Rediscovered” will be the name of the website and the project to rebuild the Riverside area in hopes of creating a commercial downtown area near the traffic circle with ground floor stores and upper floor apartments.

The website is expected to be up in a week or two, according to Mr. Takemoto.

Renaissance Downtowns is also opening an office on Peconic Avenue, across from Peconic Paddler.

The company is looking to hire a local person to run that office and is hoping to find someone with skills in social media and community outreach, who is local or has strong ties to the area, according to Sean McLean of Renaissance. He said they’ve received a number of applications, “but nobody really local.”

The company isn’t receiving any money from Southampton and is a for-profit developer, according to Mr. McLean, who says if Renaissance Downtowns doesn’t develop anything, it doesn’t make any money. 

Renaissance hopes to buy and develop some land the town purchased for economic development in the Riverside area. In addition, the company hopes to work with private property owners to either buy and develop their land, or work with them to help them develop their land, Mr. McLean said.

Renaissance seeks to get input from the community as to what types of development the community wants in the area, and from there, they will determine if that type of development is economically, environmentally and socially feasible, according to Mr. McLean.

“We go nowhere without community participation,” he said.

Asked about the possibility of people currently living in Riverside being displaced, Mr. McLean said Renaissance doesn’t use condemnation to acquire property, and in the event that a private property owner seeking to develop land has tenants on it, Renaissance will devise a “relocation plan” to help find new homes for those residents, according to Mr. McLean.

The “Crowd Source Placemaking,” as Renaissance calls it, uses social media and other means to get public input on the types of development residents want to see in an area.

He stressed that Renaissance will need help in reaching people.

“We want to talk to everyone,” Mr. McLean said. “If you don’t bring them to us, we’re not going to find them. If this community fails to get behind this effort, this effort will fail.”

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