Business

Town outlines plan to purchase three downtown buildings as part of ‘town square’ development

A proposal to buy three buildings on East Main Street in downtown Riverhead for up to $5.5 million will be the subject of an upcoming public hearing. 

The purchases are part of an effort to develop a “town square” consisting of a public gathering space, pedestrian connectivity and open vistas from Main Street to the riverfront.

“The entire Town Board is unified in its commitment to promote the continued revitalization and economic development of downtown Riverhead,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said at a press conference Thursday. “We are confident the once the Riverhead town square comes to fruition, that downtown Riverhead will once again reclaim its position as a regional destination for Long Island residents and visitors.”

The three buildings are all owned by Riverhead Enterprises, which Ms. Aguiar said “has been a cooperative and willing seller.”

The buildings in question are at 117, 121 and 127 East Main St., and two of the three are currently occupied.

117 East Main St. is currently vacant and is the former Swezey’s furniture store, which recently was used as a farmers market. It is being sold for $1,250,000.

The building at 121 East Main St. is leased to Twin Forks Bicycles and is being sold for $950,000, and 127 East Main St. is leased to Craft’d, an Italian restaurant, along with some other businesses, and is being sold for $2,650,000.

The $5.5 million cost also includes demolition costs, officials said.

Riverhead Community Development director Dawn Thomas said the plan is to demolish the building leased to Twin Forks Bicycle and the building at 117 East Main St. The town will help the bike shop find a new location, she said. The two-story building that houses Craft’d and other stores will remain, she said.

The vacant building at 117 East Main St. was once home to Swezey’s furniture. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

Ms. Thomas said the town plans to make money to offset the purchase costs of the buildings by selling some town-owned land south of the 117 and 121 East Main St. sites in what she called a “public private partnership.”

The Long Island Science Center in December received $775,000 in Empire State Development grants to purchase and redevelop the former main Swezey’s building just west of 117 East Main St., and the town received an $800,000 ESD grant to go toward the Town Square project.

The LISC now owns the former Swezey’s building, Ms. Thomas said. 

The property is located in an urban renewal zone and any purchase or development there must undergo a “qualified and eligible sponsor” hearing in which the developer must show they have the finances and abilities to carry out its plans for the site, according to Ms. Thomas.

Meanwhile, Wayne Steck, the new owner of the former West Marine building, which is just west of the LISC building, plans to demolish that building and build a four-story, mixed-use building with 45 apartments on the top three floors and retail on the ground level.

“Time is of the essence,” said Councilwoman Jodi Giglio. “Developers are pounding on the door of those buildings looking to develop them or build more apartments.”

The public hearing before the Riverhead Town Board will be take place July 21 at 2 p.m.