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Top stories of 2018: Will apartments save — or hurt — downtown Riverhead?

For years, Riverhead Town officials have been trying to come up with ways to revitalize downtown, which many feel has suffered as a result of the onslaught of big box retail stores on Route 58.

In the past year or so, many of the national chain stores that had Route 58 locations ran into financial difficulties that many feel were brought on by online shopping. As a result, a number of big box stores on Route 58 closed.

Meanwhile, downtown, where about 15 vacancies between Ostrander and Griffing avenues remained, the plan for additional apartments, which would lead to additional shoppers, was taking shape.

The 52-unit Summerwind apartments on Peconic Avenue and the 19-unit Woolworth apartments went up several years ago. In 2018, Peconic Crossing, a 52-unit affordable apartment complex, opened its doors and work began on the 116-unit Riverview Lofts, with plans for a 170-unit market rate apartment building filed for the property next to it.

While it remains to be seen if the apartments will ultimately lure retail stores downtown, they have created concerns about a lack of parking. The town’s public parking district provides parking to all businesses within the taxing district, but officials said that district was created in the 1960s for retail stores and restaurants, not apartments.

Now, town officials say they are looking for ways to solve downtown’s parking problem.