It’s hard to imagine any developer looking to triple the size of what is already the largest commercial shopping center in a rural hamlet on the North Fork.
Yet that’s what Alan Cardinale is proposing for his Jamesport Center — a 16,394-square-foot shopping center with several existing vacancies.
Even more unbelievably, an associate of Mr. Cardinale’s told the Riverhead Town Zoning Board of Appeals the developer would still nearly double the shopping center even if it didn’t get the necessary approvals to move forward with the current proposed expansion.
It’s safe to say just about any expansion of the shopping center would be soundly rejected by neighbors of the property and other Jamesport residents. Of course, it doesn’t help matters that a 10-building, 42,000-square-foot commercial development has also been proposed for 10 acres on the north side of Main Road.
In a town where Route 58 development has exploded in the past decade, it’s hard to argue that Riverhead needs more large-scale commercial expansion — especially when a former Walmart store remains empty a few miles to the west and small business vacancies plague the downtown commercial district.
Anyone who needs proof that you can’t build your way out of a problem needs to look no further than Route 25 in Brookhaven Town, where commercial vacancies have created eyesores and quality-of-life issues for communities from Middle Island to Centereach — without any tax rate reduction for residents.
We have to make the most out of what we’ve got if we’re going to maintain the quality of life we have grown accustomed to in Jamesport and elsewhere on the North Fork. That’s why it was encouraging to learn this week that the former Capital One property in Jamesport will soon reopen as a pharmacy. That sort of repurposing is exactly what Jamesport — and Riverhead as a whole — needs more of.
We need businesspeople and a government that understand how this way of doing business benefits our residents and makes this area a desirable destination. Our neighbors in Southold have always done a better job of slowing unnecessary growth and attracting new tenants to existing infrastructure. It’s time Riverhead does the same for the eastern edge of town.
Supervisor Sean Walter’s call earlier this month for a corridor study in this portion of town, similar to one conducted in recent years in Wading River, is a good first step.
More than a decade has passed since Riverhead completed its latest master plan. The time is now to re-establish the specific needs of the Jamesport area before it’s changed by developers who don’t see — or simply don’t care — how dramatically their proposals will alter the community.