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Town Board praises proposed downtown development project, but questions remain about parking capacity

A proposed five-story, mixed-use development in downtown Riverhead drew compliments from Town Board members for its appearance during Wednesday’s work session. But questions were also raised about parking to accommodate the 48 market rate apartments as downtown development continues to expand.

Landmark at Riverhead, proposed by builder Wayne Steck, would feature 7,300 square feet of restaurant and commercial space and replace the dilapidated West Marine building on East Main Street. The current building is vacant and would be demolished to pave the way for new construction. Mr. Steck was also involved in the Summerwind apartments on Peconic Avenue.

Plans for Landmark at Riverhead were first announced in 2020.

The project will require site plain and special permit approval from the Town Board since the building would be built on more than 80% lot coverage in the Riverhead Park District.

The site plan does not propose any on-site parking, since none is required with the building’s location in the town’s public parking district. The district was formed in the 1960s as a way to provide parking for stores. In recent years, those parking spaces have been used by residents who live in apartments.

Properties within the district pay into a special tax for parking.

A project of its size would otherwise be required to have 99 parking stalls, according to town planning aide Greg Bergman. 

The current building would be demolished. (Credit: file photo)

“The increased parking demand of the proposed project will create significant additional stress on the capacity of the parking district, specifically the parking lots to the south of the project site, which are currently regulated as either two-hour parking or three-hour parking,” Mr. Bergman wrote in his staff report on the proposal. 

Officials are also considering above-ground parking garages to make up for the parking shortage, and also requiring developers who don’t have on-site parking paying into a payment in-lieu of parking, with the money raised going to pay for new parking.

Mr. Steck believes it will take about 15 months to finish the project.

He said he previously proposed to build 12 parking stalls under the building but flooding concerns made it unfeasible.

He said they have recently proposed to raise the height of the building. 

Councilman Tim Hubbard said people often mention that a parking problem “is a good problem.”

A rendering of the building from the south. (Courtesy of Wayne Steck)

“And I agree,” he said. “But it’s still a problem. And more and more apartments are coming in without providing parking.”

Councilman Frank Beyrodt said the rendering of the proposal appears to be a perfect bookend to the Town Square.”

“It’s a really nice looking project,” he added.

Mr. Hubbard agreed.

“It’s really going to be awesome, but we have got to address the parking,” he said. 

Mr. Hubbard also asked about the status of the 500-unit apartment cap the town enacted in 2003. That limit meant the town could have no more than 500 new apartments downtown. Officials were uncertain of the current number, but it is believed to be well over 500.

Dawn Thomas, the town’s community development director, said a marketing study done in conjunction with the Pattern Book recommended eliminating that cap.