Rendering showing portion of the J. Petrocelli Development Associates proposal for the planned Town Square on the Peconic Riverfront. Rendering by Andrew V. Giambertone & Associates Architects, P.C.

Riverhead Town has found its master developer for the new town square project.

J. Petrocelli Development Associates unveiled ambitious plans for the development of the public space, which the group said will “activate the town,” during a town board work session this morning,

The developers proposed the construction of a four-story mixed-use building on the east side of the square; a two story mixed-use building on the west side of the square; a plaza area; communal green space and recreation space; a boat house on the river, and a four-story condominium building on the riverfront.

The development team is led by Joseph Petrocelli, a builder who has completed major construction and restoration projects in the downtown district including the Hyatt Place, Preston House and Hotel, the Long Island Aquarium and East Lawn. Petrocelli is also a principal in the company that owns and operates those properties.

“So our goal here is to create this destination. We have components, we have pieces, attractions, but without more of them the destination won’t be complete,” said Petrocelli, who is also a member of the town’s Landmarks Preservation Committee. “So we need to have different attractions to fill the hotels, to fill the restaurants, to bring the community and to bring tourists, as well.”

Town Board members were excited by the proposal and will move to designate J. Petrocelli Development Associates as master developer for the project next week.

The two-story, town-owned building at 127 East Main Street, located on the east side of the square, would be demolished under the proposal. A new four-story building would be constructed to contain an 84-room, 21,800-square-foot boutique hotel with 6,500 square feet of ground floor retail shops, 3,600-square-feet of museum space, a restaurant, and a rooftop bar and pool. 

A two-story building would be constructed on the west side to contain eight ground floor retail spaces totaling 6,650-square-feet and an 875-square-foot firehouse museum, with an exterior designed after the Washington Engine Company #2 — which was formed in Riverhead in 1861 and had firehouses downtown. The second floor would contain 5,058-square-feet of communal office space. 

An arch displaying the word “Riverhead” would be at the entrance of the square from Main Street, leading into a 32,000-square-foot public space that includes a paved area flanked with trees and planters, a fountain and public restrooms. The paved area leads into a communal green area, and then into an esplanade, closer to the Peconic River, ending at a boat house. West of the communal green area would be an amphitheater.

“Everything from street fairs to weekend markets, art festivals, holiday celebrations, food kiosks and the light can be easily accommodated in this flexible and fluid design,” said Andrew Giambertone of Andrew V. Giambertone & Associates of Huntington, the architects on the proposal.

“The resulting design would have to speak to the historic character of Riverhead, the context of the Main Street corridor, as well as adhere to the design principles set forth in the downtown Riverhead pattern book,” Giambertone said.

The proposal extends further west along the riverfront and into what is currently the largest of the town’s municipal parking lots south of Main Street. A four-story condominium with onsite parking is proposed for that portion of the parking lot. The condominium would offer studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units. Petrocelli said the building would offer roughly 30 units. The area east of the condo building would offer a public recreational space with playgrounds, a climbing structure, a basketball court, corn hole and a sensory garden. 

Conceptual layout of the Petrocelli proposal, from the applicant’s April 14, 2022 presentation to the town board.

Because most of the parking along the riverfront would be eliminated, the development proposal would require the town to construct a parking garage north of Main Street, according to project attorney Eric Russo of VanBrunt Juzwiak and Russo.

The proposal also requires that J. Petrocelli Development Associates take ownership of portions of the land being developed, Russo said. 

“But we will also be responsible, for a term, for the maintenance and ongoing care through a program for the town public space in the town square,” Russo said.

Town board members agreed to vote on a resolution this coming Tuesday to designate Petrocelli the master developer on the town square project. 

“I’ve waited a long time to have a commitment of a board like yourselves and a supervisor,” Petrocelli said, adding that he’s been through many town administrations and feels that this time “we’ll finally get it done.”

Board members applauded the proposal after the presentation.

“Excellent presentation by all. The renderings are wonderful. I can’t even reimagine downtown after this happens,” Councilman Frank Beyrodt said. “But I think you’ve hit every point from the pattern book, onto even things that you can’t dream of. I can’t think of a better team than what you’ve assembled here.”

“I totally agree,” Councilman Bob Kern said. “You have an amazing team. The designs look good. And wish you guys a lot of luck.”

Councilman Tim Hubbard thanked the Community Development Agency office and the town attorney’s office for working on the project. 

“I’m glad I live in Riverhead, because some people are going to want to move in and not going to be able to get in,” Hubbard said. “You know, what we’re going to have, we are going to be the town in Suffolk County and this is just the start of many more good things to come with the team we’ve assembled.”

“I want to thank the team. We are about to enter into possibly a public private partnership — that’s what it’s about,” Supervisor Yvette Aguiar said. “It’s the new wave of building and working with municipalities.”

The developers have already had preliminary discussions with the Community Development Agency and Urban Design Associates, town’s downtown development design consultants. Designating Petrocelli the master developer will allow negotiations on the project to proceed further.

Barry Long, the president and CEO of Urban Design Associates, commented at the beginning of the presentation that the firm believes the project is a “solid proposal.”

“Our real objective is to create an activated town center which is a catalyst for the future health of downtown — and you have a wonderful downtown — but we know we can make it even better,” Long said. “And there was broad support from the residents and the elected officials to create a town square to activate the riverfront to connect Main Street to the riverfront and the project you’re going to be talking about today does all of those things.”

The project also takes in consideration the rising flood plain of the Peconic Riverfront and will implement recommendations from the Army Corps of Engineers floodplain management study, the developers said. 

“The goal was to elevate the square enough to provide protection from the eventual rise in water table without cutting off the view to the river itself,” Giambertone said. “The square will be set at elevation 13.5, which puts it approximately a foot above the projected 100 year floodplain as dictated by study from the Army Corps of Engineers.”

The developers are also seeking funding through the state’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative program, which Riverhead won $10 million from to put towards projects like the town square. 

“This master development proposal is fully compatible with that DRI vision and those goals and will build upon those substantial previous planning efforts, as well as the public involvement and community support that was gained and accumulated throughout the recent history,” said David Wortman, the senior environmental manager at VHB, the developer’s consultant.

The developers also said they would pursue their own grant funding and coordinate with the town’s Community Development Agency to obtain more grant funding in partnership with the town.

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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: