By Jean-Paul Salamanca
Riverhead officials aim to create a town square with a new riverfront connecting Main Street to the Peconic River as part of a plan to revitalize the downtown.
The riverfront would have recreational amenities and a gathering space and would be partially funded with an $800,000 grant awarded to the town in late December by the New York State Regional Economic Development Council.
Dawn Thomas, Riverhead’s community development administrator, said last week that town officials have wanted to open public space along the Peconic River for years and that it has also been recommended in several studies, including the town’s Master Plan and the Brownfields Opportunity Area study in 2016.
“The objective would be to open up a vista from Main Street to the town square so that when you are on Main Street, you would see it,” Thomas said. “If you ask many people who come to downtown Riverhead, they would tell you that they didn’t even know the river was there.”
The town square would be built primarily along a town-owned 1-acre parking lot on East Main Street with about 80 parking spaces. Final costs and plans for the square are still being discussed, but Thomas said town officials plan to work with the state and Suffolk County as they begin the design process for the square.
Officials envision it will feature space for children’s activities, performance space for musicians, and possibly a statue or other monument, Thomas added.
According to the town’s project funding application, officials also pitched the town square as potentially containing smaller retail spaces for artisans and specialty retailers, with office and/or artist housing, “all of which will improve pedestrian access to Riverhead’s existing Riverwalk and downtown parklands.”
Councilwoman Catherine Kent, the town board’s liaison to the Downtown Revitalization Committee, said the square would be another key component in efforts to revitalize the downtown area. Kent also cited a town board vote in August to proceed with a pattern book that will guide future design and development downtown.