Top Stories 2022: Riverhead awarded $10 million for downtown revitalization

In recent years, Riverhead Town officials have watched the state’s $10 million “Downtown Revitalization Initiative” go to places like Baldwin, Central Islip, Hicksville and Westbury, while it’s own application falls short.

The town had tried applying on its own, as well as applying jointly with neighboring Southampton Town. 

One year, then-supervisor Sean Walter called the state program a “waste of taxpayers’ money” at a public meeting.

But in 2022, it all came together. 

Riverhead Town was awarded the $10 million in January.

There were actually two $10 million prices awarded on Long Island this year since none was issued the prior year due to the pandemic. 

The Village of Amityville was the other $10 million recipient in 2022. 

“Unequivocally, Riverhead now has a bright future,” said Supervision Yvette Aguiar after the recipients were named. 

She gave much of the credit to Dawn Thomas, the town’s community development director, for her work on the proposal.

So what do you do with $10 million?

That decision is largely up to the state, but is based on the feedback received during a series of public input sessions. 

The Local Planning Committee, as it was called, was co-chaired by Ms. Aguiar and former Greenport Mayor Dave Kapell, who is also a member of the state’s Regional Economic Development Council. 

The committee took in feedback and recommendations from the public on what they’d like to see in downtown Riverhead.

The town signed a contract with the state for the grant, and the next step was to develop a community-based planning process “that articulates a vision for the revitalization of its downtown and identifies a list of signature projects that have the potential to transform the downtown and leverage further private and public investments,” according to the state.

In late December, state officials announced it will fund eight projects with the grant.

They include:

Creating a New Town Square – $3.24 million

Build a new public plaza and gathering space that can facilitate year-round activation and provide accessible pedestrian connections and vistas from Main Street to the riverfront.

Enhancing Peconic Park with an Adaptive Playground – $245,000

Construct a playground and park space with a water feature and educational activities that relates to the waterfront location and utilizes green infrastructure and design to aid in downtown resiliency efforts.

Enhancing the Pedestrian Realm Along Main Street – $750,000

Install traffic calming design elements to improve pedestrian safety along Main Street at two prominent intersections, including curb bump-outs, raised crosswalks. and pedestrian signalization. Install new street trees and landscaping.

Building a New Town Rowing Facility – $250,000

Construct a floating ADA accessible community boat launch facility in the Peconic River with space to maneuver and launch crew boats and, if feasible, racks to store the crew boats.

Implementing Public Art Program – $250,000

Engage local artists to build permanent public artworks in Downtown Riverhead, building on success of existing community artworks.

Expanding the Suffolk Theater – $2 million

Expand an existing, historic theater stage and add green room and back of house functions, all as a component of a larger development with residential units that include workforce housing.

Building a New Entrance and Welcome Center for the Library – $215,000

Provide a new accessible entrance and pedestrian path with signage, lighting and landscaping and include interior space for a self-serving visitor center providing promotional materials for Downtown businesses and events.

Creating a Mixed-Use Development at Griffing Avenue – 2.75 million

Construct a new mixed-use development consisting of workforce housing and retail/commercial space lining a public parking structure.