Riverhead is looking to develop the town-owned parking lot on Court Street and Osborn Avenue with a mixed use building providing parking, commercial and residential uses. Photo: File photo: Denise Civiletti

The Riverhead Town Board Wednesday approved an agreement with the Brooklyn-based National Development Council for technical assistance on three development projects the town is currently pursuing: redevelopment of the area near the railroad station, the development of a town square on East Main Street and the evaluation of a proposal for leasing or purchasing a Route 58 building for a new municipal complex.

Founded in 1968, the NDC is a nonprofit community development consultant that works strictly for municipalities and local development corporations on economic development and affordable housing projects. They have expertise dealing with state and federal agencies and have served communities around the country and in the state of New York. The NDC also helped distribute COVID-19 relief and recovery grants and loans within the state throughout this past year.

The NDC is being paid $82,500 for the entirety of their service, according to the agreement — $30,000 comes from the Community Development Agency’s Empire State Development grant and $52,500 comes from municipal aid granted by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.

The NDC is responsible for evaluating, researching and reviewing planning, zoning and economic development documents for the projects and will work closely with the projects’ development teams, according to the agreement. 

The project near the Riverhead railroad station would be a transit-oriented development project that would include the design and implementation of a major mixed-use redevelopment of the town owned parking lot. The goal is to make the location an “attractive, transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly and environmentally sustainable point of interest with a mix of uses complementary to the Downtown Business District with the inclusion of public parking.”

The organization has helped other communities with similar projects before, like the Town of Babylon’s $500 million Wyandanch Rising project. The project helped add 177 residential units – including 123 qualifying as affordable housing – with around 35,000 square feet of ground-level retail space, according to the Babylon Town.

Matthew McDonough, the former CEO of Babylon’s Industrial Development Agency and now its legal counsel, said the NDC gave the town “advanced business advice” and “reviewed financial feasibility” of the town’s investments along the development of the project. He said they helped review the town’s applications for federal and state grants, tax credits and bonds. They also helped the town communicate financial impacts with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for projects impacting the train station.

The NDC continues to work for Babylon to analyze and evaluate multiple financial elements of low income and affordable housing projects, McDonough said.

The NDC will also advise Riverhead officials on the potential purchase or lease of the former Kmart building on Route 58 and the use of the building as a new municipal complex. Town board members said the vacant building could house Town Hall, the offices of the town’s planning and building departments, the town historian, the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corp and more. (See prior story)

The firm will also advise on the town square project in development of the Main Street site. (See prior stories) A community survey for the project closed on July 2 and the town is expected to present the final design of the town square to the community this month, according to the timeline on their website.

Under the contract approved this week, NDC will be paid a fee not to exceed $37,000 for the Railroad Avenue project, a fee not to exceed $30,000 for the town square project, and a fee not to exceed $15,000 to evaluate the proposal for the former Kmart site.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.