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Science center and Town Square plans move forward

Two recently acquired state grants will be used to create a Town Square along the Peconic Riverfront and a permanent home for the Long Island Science Center adjacent to it. 

“The Long Island Science Center could have elected to relocate elsewhere in region. However, they made a distinct decision to expand in the heart of Main Street, next to Riverhead Town Square,” Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said in a release. 

In December, Riverhead won an $800,000 Regional Economic Development Council grant to create a Town Square with a public gathering space, pedestrian connectivity and open vistas from Main Street to the riverfront, according to officials. 

“The primary goal of this project is to reorient the pedestrian focus from the traditional Main Street to the Peconic Riverwalk,” town officials said in the release. 

The Town Square is proposed for a portion of the parking lot behind the former Swezey’s building.

Meanwhile, also in December, the Long Island Science Center, which currently leases space on Peconic Avenue, won a separate $775,500 grant from the council to support its expansion into the former Swezey’s building, according to executive director Cailin Kaller. 

The Science Center is in contract to buy that building, but has not closed, she said. It will continue to use its current Peconic Avenue space until the end of 2020, when the new location will hopefully be ready, Ms. Kaller said. 

Having the facility adjacent to the Town Square, will offer “increased opportunities for families and schools to access its array of educational resources,” according to science center officials. 

The science center sold its original location at 11 West Main St. in 2016 and operated from Rocky Point for three years. It reopened a demonstration space on the ground floor of the Summerwind building in January 2019.

Plans for the new science center include more than 6,000 square feet of exhibition space, a new dedicated MakerSpace and four classrooms. The new exhibition space will incorporate many of the current offerings and expand capacity to allow for new ones, according to Ms. Kaller. 

“We are pleased to be entering the next stage of the expansion plan that would not be possible without the support of New York State and Empire State Development,” Larry Oxman, president of the science center board, said in a release. “The new building will allow us to create a truly inspirational exhibition space for visitors to the Science Center, as well as plenty of classroom space to accommodate much larger groups than we can currently host.”

“We are going to continue to offer many of the most popular interactive exhibits we currently have including Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, 3D Art and Printing, and Engineering Zone,” Ms. Kaller said. 

“We are excited to expand to include new interactive spaces including coding and robotics, a citizen science space, electric circuitry, a special space for preschool exploration, and a large exhibit area dedicated to the important and historic innovation and technology that was created here on Long Island,” she said. 

“The Town Square will transform the downtown business district into a thriving regional hub that will attract thousands of people to live, work and play here in Riverhead,” Ms. Aguiar said. “These two projects will have a synergistic redevelopment effect on Riverhead and the Long Island region.” 

The town intends to repurpose some existing town-owned riverfront parking as public gathering areas, with performance spaces, splash fountains and permeable brick/stone pathways interspersed with rain gardens behind the new Town Square, officials said. 

A formal press conference on the two projects is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 14, at 2 p.m. at 111 East Main St.