Concept rendering of potential design of town square on East Main Street. Image courtesy of the Town of Riverhead

Riverhead Town and New York State have scheduled three forums to hear the public’s input on how to spend Riverhead’s $10 million downtown revitalization initiative grant.

The meetings, hosted by Riverhead’s Local Planning Committee — the advisory committee formed jointly by the state and town to guide the town’s spending of its award — are scheduled for March 21 at Town Hall, May 23 at the Suffolk Theater, and July 1 at either Grangebel Park or the Town Square site, according to a press release from the town supervisor’s office.

Each meeting will start at 6 p.m.. Residents are encouraged to participate in-person and breakout sessions on particular interests will be held during the meeting. A virtual option to participate will also be available, the press release states.

The Local Planning Committee is co-chaired by Supervisor Yvette Aguar and former Greenport Mayor David Kapell, who will act as a representative of the NYS Long Island Regional Economic Development Council. 

Along with the forums, a new website,, will be launched where the public can leave feedback, attach photos of suggestions or ideas, and access interactive maps, according to the press release. The website is currently private.

“The Town Board has worked diligently and cooperatively to advance the redevelopment of Downtown Riverhead,” Aguiar said in the release. “I am confident that the selected projects will result in a compact, safe, walkable downtown that will consist of a public gathering space, as well as pedestrian connectivity from Main Street to the riverfront to the railroad station. We are grateful for this opportunity to work with New York State to dramatically improve our downtown for the betterment of Riverhead residents, businesses, and visitors. We welcome and encourage the public’s continued input into our revitalization efforts.”

Although Riverhead outlined key projects that it would spend the money on in its grant application, the final selection of which projects the money goes to will be made in the fall by Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

Communities who win the DRI award receive the support from both state agency staff in the Department of State, Empire State Development and NYS Homes and Community renewal, and private sector experts, including planning consultant Perkins-Eastman, according to the press release.

In its application, Riverhead proposed spending a $20 million award on eight projects. The three largest of these include $4.5 million for site improvements and amenities for the town square project, $4.8 million to implement floodplain mitigation projects downtown and $4.5 million to offset the cost of construction for a public parking garage near the Long Island Rail Road station.

In addition to the parking garage, a five-story, mixed-use building featuring 243 apartments, above ground-floor parking, and amenity and commercial space is proposed on the municipal parking lot between Court Street and Railroad Avenue by RXR and Georgica Green Ventures, who were designated master developers for the town’s transit oriented development project last month. Money from the grant could potentially go towards developing that project.

The town has also proposed money for smaller projects, including $2 million to upgrade and expand the historic Suffolk Theater, $2 million to restore the historic Vail-Leavitt Music Hall, $2 million on paths connecting downtown and the railroad area, and $2 million to support the Long Island Science Center adjoining the town square location.

“It is imperative that the residents and community leaders are actively involved to help the state and town choose the most effective and meaningful projects to maximize public benefit and serve the community’s vision, as expressed through extensive public engagement,” Kapell said. “I believe the DRI will be the catalyst for Downtown Riverhead to finally realize its full economic development potential.”

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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. Email: