Riverhead Town has reached an agreement with the New York State Historic Preservation Office to allow the demolition of three downtown buildings the town has purchased to pave the way for the Town Square project, Supervisor Yvette Aguiar announced Thursday.
The town formally announced the purchase of the three East Main Street properties in May with the intention of demolishing two of the buildings. But parts of Main Street — from Griffing Avenue to Maple Avenue — were placed on the National Register of Historic Places as a historic district in 2012. The demolition, therefore, required approval from the SHPO to show they are preserving the historic character of the area, according to Riverhead Town Community Development Agency director Dawn Thomas. State grant funding the town received as part of the project also meant the preservation office could weigh in on the design.
Ms. Aguiar said the Community Development Department began reviewing the process once the town acquired the properties and presented its findings to the preservation office, which “agreed that there are no prudent and/or feasible alternatives to demolition.”
“The Town of Riverhead is beyond excited that this transformative project can now proceed in earnest,” the supervisor said in a statement. “The State Historic Preservation Office was cooperative, reasonable and receptive to working with Riverhead to be sure that a mutually beneficial solution was reached.”
The two vacant buildings the town wants to demolish are 121 E. Main St., a former bike store that has no contributing elements related to the National Register; and the former Swezey’s furniture store at 117 E. Main St., which does have a contributing element, according to Ms. Thomas. The town could potentially demolish the third building — 127 E. Main St. — as well, which is currently home to the restaurant Craft’d and other active businesses. Officials have said a complete renovation of that building is also possible.
Town officials recently met with historic preservation representatives in a meeting that included Assemblywoman Jodi Giglio and Richard Wines and Joe Petrocelli of the town’s Landmarks Preservation Commission.
“The Landmarks Preservation Commission is pleased that SPHO agrees that there is no feasible alternative to demolition of the existing Main Street buildings to make way for the Town Square,” Mr. Wines said in a statement. “We look forward to working with them on this important project and share their goal to make sure it fits in and is compatible with our historic downtown architecture.”
Ms. Giglio, who helped arrange an in-person meeting with representatives of the preservation office, said she is confident the Town Square “will significantly contribute to the economic rebirth of Downtown Riverhead and the Long Island region.”
Ms. Thomas previously said the building at 117 E. Main St. has what’s known as jalousie windows on the second floor, which were popular in the 1950s and are considered historically significant. The preservation office will now develop a Letter of Resolution with alternatives such as creation and installation of a memorial plaque commemorating the building and its significance to the historic district. The building is currently in shambles on the inside. It has no heat and a leak in the ceiling has left mold throughout the building.
The town has allocated nearly $2 million in grant money toward the Town Square project from New York State and Suffolk County funds. Officials had previously said the town plans to sell or lease some town-owned land to cover a portion of the estimated $5.5 million cost. The total cost includes the acquisition and demolition of the buildings.
Ms. Thomas said it’s likely a public-private partnership will be necessary to fully develop the Town Square.
“The Community Development department applied for a multimillion dollar federal grant in July to support downtown revitalization, including the Town Square and continues to aggressively pursue other federal, state and county funding opportunities to further economic redevelopment goals,” she said.
Additional information on the design and plans for the project can be found here.
WITH TIM GANNON