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Railroad avenue development to feature 243-unit apartment complex, parking garage

Riverhead Town unveiled a plan to redevelop the long-blighted Railroad Avenue area with a 243-unit, mixed-use apartment complex and parking garage.

The proposed apartment complex would be built on the Railroad Avenue parking lot and the four-to-five story parking garage would be built at the corner of Griffing Avenue and Railroad Avenue. The proposal was outlined Thursday by the company Riverhead Town plans to appoint as the “master developer” for the Railroad Avenue transit-oriented development.

The title of master developer is expected to become a joint venture between Georgica Green Ventures, the company that build the 116-unit Riverview Lofts apartments on East Main Street, and RXR, a much larger firm that has built more than 30 million square feet of commercial development and has more than 500 employees.  

Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said at Thursday’s work session that the town has for years tried to clean up the “blight” on Railroad Avenue with little success.

“There was no interest in the area by developers and the area remains underutilized,” she said.

The Town Board in May issued a request for proposals seeking a master developer for the Railroad Avenue TOD. Ms. Aguiar said the town received six other responses in addition to RXR/GGV. A volunteer committee of representatives of town officials and stakeholders recommended RXR/GGV as the master developer. 

Town Board will officially vote at its Tuesday meeting to appoint RXR/GGV.

A transit-oriented development is geared toward creating walkable, pedestrian friendly, mixed-use communities in an area connected to a train station. The TOD had been one of the center points in the town’s application to receive the $10 million downtown revitalization grant. Riverhead was announced as a winner of this year’s grant last month, along with the Village of Amityville.

Because the railroad parking lot is an urban renewal area, the master developer would have to undergo a qualified and eligible sponsor hearing to determine if it has the finances and ability to buy and develop the site. 

Joe Graziose, the executive vice president of RXR, said they aren’t just looking to do this one project in Riverhead. 

“We see this as a start of our relationship here in the Town of Riverhead,” he said. 

“We are Long Islanders at heart,” said RXR president Michael Maturo. “We’ve been developing and operating on Long Island for over 60 years.”

Erik Aulestia, the principal of Torti Gallas + Partners, which designed the proposed buildings, said his firm has worked on over 100 transit development projects.

The proposed apartment building would be five stories. It would have apartments on the upper floors and retail, commercial and amenities on the first floor. There also would be parking on the ground floor and an open courtyard, according to Mr. Aulestia. The proposal shows the complex would feature studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments.

The mixed-use building would be located on what is now a town-owned parking lot that was built in the 1990s as a way to keep the county courts from leaving Riverhead. Officials say it is sparsely used.

The parking garage would have about 100 parking spaces per floor, Mr. Aulestia said. Construction on the parking garage would start first, as not to impact the existing lot.

The historic Riverhead train station itself would become a cafe with outdoor seating and there would be a plaza across the street. Town Board members supported the proposal. 

“People speak out against projects like these but I keep reminding them that you have to see the big picture,” said Councilman Tim Hubbard. “And the big picture is coming to fruition with this project, and starting with 205 Osborn Avenue.”

205 Osborn Avenue is another five-story, mixed-use apartment complex proposed across the street from the TOD site. It has received preliminary site plan approval and awaits final approval.

The Railroad Avenue area falls under different zoning than the Main Street area — Downtown Center-1 — where there’s currently a 500-unit cap. That cap may be eliminated anyway, as the number has already climbed past that, officials have said.