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Town Board schedules public hearing for qualified and eligible sponsor hearing as next step for Railroad Avenue redevelopment

The redevelopment of the long-blighted Railroad Avenue area moved one step closer Tuesday as the Riverhead Town Board scheduled a public hearing to undergo a qualified and eligible sponsor hearing to determine the master developer has adequate funding and ability to develop the site.

The Town Board set the public hearing for 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 27.

The board had selected the joint venture between RXR and Georgica Green Ventures as the master developer earlier this year, shortly after the proposed 243-unit, mixed use apartment complex and parking garage was unveiled.

“The project has been moving forward rapidly and evolving,” said Dawn Thomas, Riverhead’s Community Development Agency administrator. “We are now ready to have the board consider RXR/GGV as the qualified and eligible sponsor for an urban renewal project. … This project is the next step to getting that area revitalized [and] pursuant to urban renewal law, they need to be designated as qualified and eligible.”

The Town Board held a special meeting for both the Community Development Agency and Town Board Tuesday morning and unanimously approved setting the public hearing.

No members of the public commented on the resolution to set the hearing. The developer at that hearing will present to the board and the public can weigh in with questions.

If that town moves forward and deems the developer qualified and eligible, the town would work with Suffolk County to transfer two parcels owned by the county on Griffing Avenue to the developer for the construction of the parking garage.

Ms. Thomas said the parking garage would feature about 320 stalls. The plan calls for the apartment complex to be built on the Railroad Avenue parking lot that the town owns. That lot currently features 237 stalls, Ms. Thomas said.

“We worked with the county, the developer and the court system because the court is concerned to make sure there is adequate parking,” she said. “We also have some new residences that will be built on Griffing Avenue, so the number we selected has been vetted through all the parties and agreed upon.”

Ms. Thomas said the parking garage would not be supplying parking for the new 243-unit apartment complex, which will all be market rate.

“We are gaining parking,” she said.

She added that the town should be be hearing soon on the which projects the state selects for funding as part of the $10 million downtown revitalization initiative grant it was awarded earlier this year. RXR, the project sponsor, sought $2.75 million in funding through the grant for the Griffing Avenue-mixed use project, that includes both the parking garage and 30 units of workforce housing.

“Hopefully this is one the projects that gets funded,” Ms. Thomas said.

Ann Marie Prudenti, the deputy town attorney, said the master developer agreement would be filed with the town clerk and would publicly available no later than Wednesday morning.

Councilman Frank Beyrodt asked if there’s been any progress working with the MTA to increase train service to Riverhead. Ms. Thomas said the MTA has “definitely taken interest in what we’re doing” and the town was selected for a pilot program and she said there will be a meeting later this month to discuss more specifics about the program.