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Community forum on downtown Riverhead draws more than 100 people

11/19/2019 6:00 AM |

More than 100 people attended Riverhead Town’s Community Forum Thursday night on what downtown should look like.

The plan for downtown is to develop what’s known as a “pattern book.”

“As you know, Riverhead has hired Urban Design Associates to work with us to assist us in planning our downtown area,” said Councilwoman Catherine Kent. “UDA was founded in 1964 and is an international urban design practice headquartered in Pittsburgh.”

Barry Long, the president and CEO of Urban Design Associates, addressed the group at the outset and had them break into groups of about 10 people and make lists of downtown Riverhead’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.

“So what are we going to do tonight? We’re going to be primarily listening to you,” Mr. Long told the audience.

The pattern book will guide the development of future community character for the Main Street area, he said.

The key principals are that the study will be community-driven, based on resident involvement and locally controlled, Mr. Long said.

Things that frequently showed up in downtown’s strengths were its restaurants, major events like the cardboard boat race, its historic character, attractions like the Long Island Aquarium and the Suffolk Theater and the Peconic River.

Things that frequently showed up in the weaknesses were lack of retail, flooding, vacancies, overcrowded housing, loitering and reputation — deserved or not — as a dangerous area.

A number of responses also suggested overly tall buildings, and particularly the under-construction Riverview Lofts building on East Main Street and McDermott Avenue.

While some of the issues pertaining to downtown have been the subject of heated debate, such as building height and overcrowded housing, there were almost exclusively peaceful exchanges Thursday night.

Mr. Long said the next steps will be to tally up the results of the questioning done Thursday, after which there will be two online surveys and another meeting.

Mr. Long said the goal is to finish the pattern book by the first quarter of 2020.

Photo caption: Barry Long of Urban Design Associates. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

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