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Town Square, railroad redevelopment among the top requests for funding as projects outlined seeking portion of $10M grant

A total of 13 projects — ranging from  Transit-Oriented Development near the railroad station to the creation of  “green infrastructure” to mitigate flooding along the riverfront — are under consideration for a portion of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative grant awarded to Riverhead Town in January. 

The total amount of funding originally requested by the town and by private developers and sponsors far surpasses the $10 million, and officials acknowledge that some projects won’t make the cut. Most of the projects seeking DRI money are also pursuing or have identified funding from other sources. 

A public meeting was held Monday at the Suffolk Theater to gauge public input on the proposals, focusing on the two largest and most costly: the TOD and Town Square projects.

A local planning committee, co-chaired by Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar and former Greenport Village mayor Dave Kapell, will oversee the grant allocation process and involve stakeholders from local businesses and organizations. 

“This is a rare opportunity to really jump-start the revitalization of downtown RIverhead,” Mr. Kapell said.

On their own, TOD and the Town Square projects could eat up the entire $10 million and, as such, their sponsors have proposed to contribute a significant portion of the total amounts needed. The exact total of grant money available to spend is also slightly less than $10 million, as funds are deducted to pay for planning consultants to assist the community in developing a strategic plan.

The TOD project is a joint venture of developers RXR and Georgica Green Ventures, the company that built the Riverview Lofts on East Main Street. They are requesting $5.26 million in DRI funding and propose to contribute an additional $100.5 million themselves. 

The TOD project calls for a five-story mixed-use building with ground floor commercial space and 243 market-rate apartments on the upper floors. The plan also includes construction of a multi-level parking garage to replace existing parking that would be lost. 

The latest forum was held at the Suffolk Theater Monday. (Credit: Tim Gannon)

For the Town Square, sponsors Riverhead Town and Petrocelli Construction are seeking $5.7 million in DRI funding, with a promised contribution of $74.3 million. The Town Square would provide a public gathering space with mixed-use buildings and create vistas from Main Street to the Peconic Riverfront. An open air amphitheater, public use boathouse and dock are among other project components that were announced for the first time last month.

The Long Island Science Center’s planned expansion into the former Swezey’s property and construction of a state-of-the-art planetarium is also on the list for a request of $1.5 million. The sponsor contribution is listed at $11.8 million.

Other projects listed include:

• Improvements to the Suffolk Theater, including the proposed plan to for an addition to the rear of the theater that would also include 28 residential apartments. The request is for $3 million and the sponsor contribution would be $10.2 million.

• Improvements to Vail-Leavitt Music Hall with $1 million requested.

• A new “pedestrianized street” on the unnamed roadway by the former Riverhead Grill, including paving, plantings, trees and street furniture with $1 million requested.

• Improvements to Riverhead Free Library, including the creation of a new entrance and walkway to connect the library to Main Street. A total of $472,710 is requested.

• A new boathouse for the East End Rowing Club to replace the “currently unstable building,” according to the presentation. The request is for $266,838.

• A Downtown Sculpture Program to encourage local artists to create work for display along  the riverfront. The request is for $250,000.

The following four projects are listed under “Town Projects” and not all have cost estimates yet. The sponsor for these would be the Town of Riverhead.

• An East Main Street Prototype to add parklets, bump-outs, raised crosswalks, street furniture, lighting and green infrastructure designed to slow traffic.

• Improvements to Griffing Avenue to include walkability, improve pedestrian pathways.

• Improved wayfinding to help navigation in Downtown Riverhead. The request would be for $200,000.

• A green infrastructure proposal would include flood mitigation/landscape improvements to combat tidal and storm surge flooding, based on recommendations by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The proposals submitted in the grant application are intended to match the “visions, goals and strategies” adopted for potential grant funding by local stakeholders.

Several of the listed projects feature only market-rate housing, and officials said Monday that the state generally likes to see affordable apartment units included in residential proposals. Those projects will likely need to be amended in that direction. 

The DRI seeks to “transform communities ripe for development into vibrant neighborhoods where the next generation of New Yorkers will want to live, work and raise a family,” said Eric Fang, a consultant hired by the state to help the town.

DRI funding cannot be used to cover more than 40% of costs for  privately sponsored projects, according to Mr. Fang. For public and nonprofit-sponsored projects, leveraging other sources of public and private funds is encouraged, he said.

DRI funding requests must be for at least $100,000, according to Jeannette Rausch of the New York Department of State, which oversees the DRI program.

The next public meeting will be sometime in July, she said. The specific date hasn’t been set yet.

The public can also attended meetings of the local planning committee; the meeting schedule found online at riverheaddri.com.

At this point, Ms. Rausch said, the process is past the halfway point, and funding for designated projects is expected to become available in September or October.