File photo: Denise Civiletti

The Long Island Science Center is purchasing a building in the heart of downtown Riverhead’s Main Street business district which it will renovate for a new permanent home, according to the organization’s board president Laurence Oxman.

The building at 111 East Main Street is the former home of Swezey’s Department Stores.

The science center sold its property on West Main Street to the developer of Peconic Crossing apartments. It relocated to Rocky Point after the sale in 2016, but in January 2019 returned to downtown Riverhead to a ground-floor space at Summerwind Square that had been occupied by BNB Bank.

Its new location will include more than 6,000-square-feet of exhibition space, a new dedicated MakerSpace, and four classrooms. The new exhibition space will incorporate many of the current offerings and expand capacity to also allow for new offerings.

In December, the Long Island Science Center received a $775,000 grant through the Long Island Regional Economic Development Council to support its expansion.

The Town of Riverhead received an $800,000 economic development grant in the same round of funding to help the town create a town square, which officials plan to develop in the center of town as a public gathering space, while opening the riverfront to Main Street.

The primary goal of this project is to reorient the pedestrian focus from the traditional Main Street to the Peconic Riverwalk, the town said in a press release.

“The town intends to repurpose some existing town-owned riverfront parking as public gathering spaces, with performance spaces, splash fountains and permeable brick/stone pathways interspersed with rain gardens,” according to the press release. “These rain/river friendly areas will provide amenities for community members while also helping capture the occasional flooding experienced near the Peconic River. In addition, the site will include interactive environmental learning stations.”

“The Long Island Science Center could have elected to relocate elsewhere in the region. However, they made a distinct decision to expand in the heart of Main Street, next to the Riverhead town square,” Riverhead Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said.

“I want to thank New York State for funding both of these important projects,” Aguiar said.

“We are pleased to be entering the next stage of the expansion plan that would not be possible without the support of New York State and Empire State Development,” Oxman said. “The new building will allow us to create a truly inspirational exhibition space for visitors to the Science Center, as well as plenty of classroom space to accommodate much larger groups than we can currently host,” he said.

Aguiar today announced a Feb. 14 press conference at which the town and the science center will provide additional details about the plans.

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.