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Mixed reviews for downtown apartments dubbed Riverview Lofts

Plans for a five-story, 116-unit apartment complex in downtown Riverhead got a mixed reaction at Tuesday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting.

The proposal, from developer Georgica Green Ventures, is being called Riverview Lofts and it’s slated to be built on the site of the former McCabes store, which also was once the Dinosaur Walk Museum, on the corner of East Main Street and McDermott Avenue.

It also will have 1,429-square-feet of commercial/retail development and two restaurants on the ground floor, and 131 mixed-income apartments that includes 31 studios, 57 one-bedroom and 28 two-bedroom units.

The public hearing on Tuesday was on the site plan for the project, which also will require a special permit from the Town Board because the applicant is seeking to increase the number parking spaces from about 35 to 55.

The property is within the town’s Public Parking District and as such, is not required to provide any parking.

Georgette Case, who lives downtown and is the town historian, urged the town to reject the project.

“I personally am concerned about the Peconic River and the lack of availability for viewing it” with five-story buildings on the south side of Main Street, she said.

She called it a “five-story monstrosity.”

Charles Voorhis, a planner working for the applicant, countered by saying the river can’t be seen from East Main Street now.

Cheri Wirth, one of the owners of Digger’s restaurant on West Main Street, urged approval.

“Parking problems are not always a bad thing,” she said. “When the parking lots are full, we’re full.”

A representative of the Hotel Indigo on West Main Street also supported the project.

Jeanine Zeltmann of Riverhead raised concerns about how flooding from the Peconic River would impact the project, and how the project would impact the school district, which she said is already struggling to find space for students.

Angela DeVito of South Jamesport said workforce housing is needed, but she said it would be best to do a parking study for downtown, as the town has sought grants to do, before moving forward with the apartments.

Connie Lassandro, a former Nassau County housing director who is a consultant for Georgica Green Ventures, presented 12 letters in support of the project, including one from Peconic Bay Medical Center, which has publicly stressed the need for housing for its employees for several years.

She acknowledged that parking is an issue, but said, “we will find a solution.”

David Gallo, who heads Georgica Greens Ventures, said he first came to Riverhead in 2011 with his family, and realized then, “I want to be part of the growth of downtown Riverhead.”

The Town Board closed the public hearing except for written comments until Aug. 11.

Riverview Lofts also will be subject to a Sept. 6 public hearing on a proposal to connect it to the town water district.

The project has previously received approvals from the architectural review board and the landmarks preservation commission, along with the Suffolk County Planning Commission, and the town Zoning Board of Appeals, which granted variances on the size of the parking spaces last month.

Photo caption: A rendering of the proposed project on East Main Street.

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