A rendering by Urban Design Associates showing possible future development on the Peconic Riverfront presented to the Town Board at its work session Oct. 20.

The Riverhead Town Board received updated renderings and development plans for the new Town Square and the Peconic Riverfront during a presentation on public space activation at Thursday’s work session.

The presentation outlined the ongoing development of the downtown area and also unveiled plans for two parking garages off East Main Street not previously presented to the board. The presentation was made by Barry Long, president and CEO of Urban Design Associates, the Pittsburg planning firm hired to do various work on the Town Square and the downtown area, including the pattern book.

The Town Board entered into the agreement for the plan in July, as the town was in the process of selecting projects to recommend for a piece of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative funding and after J. Petrocelli Development Associates was designated the master developer of the Town Square project. Thursday’s presentation was just a draft of the work done by UDA and its subconsultant, Phil Myrick, an urban designer based in upstate Pleasantville, and the Town board will be given a final plan in a document soon. 

“The ultimate goal here was, we had so much happening at the same time, it was important to make sure that everything dovetailed together and figure out where everything fit and why it needed to go in a certain place,” Community Development Director Dawn Thomas said.

The plan is intended to analyze various town and developer-led initiatives in the riverfront area. The plan was broken down into “phases of activation”: 

  1. Town Square
  2. Parking garage and passages
  3. Adaptable play and plaza
  4. East End Arts
  5. Riverfront and Heidi Behr Way 

“So again, it’s broken into manageable pieces, and it can’t all be done at once. But it can be achieved if you continue to go one step at a time,” Long said.

Activation of the Town Square’s would come primarily through the Long Island Science Center and East End Arts exhibits, Long said. The activation of the space, on the level of Main Street and located opposite the Suffolk Theater, would be supplemented by moveable tables and chairs, oversized games, outdoor dining, small performance space, a seasonal holiday tree and be used as a flexible event space. 

“So these are activation elements that are common to town squares,” Long said. He added that the space could “stand on its own” even without the incoming surrounding development.

Community Development Director Dawn Thomas and Urban Design Associates President Barry Long present a draft of the Riverfront Action Plan to the Town Board during Thursday’s work session. Photo: Alek Lewis

The town is in talks with Petrocelli for the developer to be the one responsible for managing the Town Square, Long said. Petrocelli’s development requires the town to transfer 127 East Main Street, a building currently owned by the town, which currently houses Craft’d and the office of the Riverhead Chamber of Commerce, to the developer for the construction of a boutique hotel with ground floor restaurant and commercial uses. The town would retain ownership of the parcels at 117 and 121 East Main Street, which will become the public portion of the Town Square.

The main parking garage for downtown, which would be located on top of the current First Street parking lot, would be the second phase, due to the need to remove parking on the riverfront for other phases of development. The garage presented to the board would be made out of precast concrete and include five floors of parking with a total of 580 spaces. The garage could also double as a police substation, Long said. The renderings show a separate two-story building east of the garage along East Avenue, which Long said may be constructed and used for other “economic development opportunities.”

The plan for the parking garage also calls for connecting it to Main Street through two walkways leading to crossings on Main Street. The town is currently in contract with Sam Schwartz Consulting to update the town’s strategic parking plan, which will analyze the need for parking garages in the Main Street and Railroad Avenue area.

Long said the town has talked to the National Development Council, its consultants for various projects including the Town Square, about getting financing for the parking garage project. Long said NDC is working on getting the town a cost estimate on the project.

The third phase of activation is for the lower part of the Town Square, which was known during the presentation as the “adaptable play area and plaza.” The area would be connected to the upper Town Square by “estuary” water steps, a fountain-like structure near the steps that will lead to a shallow play pond that can later be replaced with an ice skating rink during the winter months. 

Long said someone visiting the Town Square could buy a rubber duck from the gift shop of the LISC and then float it down the fountain and into the pond as an activity.

“Some folks like water features, some would like a different kind of water feature, some folks would prefer not to have water features — they say the Peconic’s the water feature — but toddlers can’t get in the Peconic…,” Long said. “But the way I kind of look at that is like Brussels sprouts. I’m not a big fan of Brussels sprouts, but a lot of people like Brussels sprouts. So we’ve included that it could be a variety of different things. But the important thing there is that it does not block the view. I would say it needs to be something that can be animated and can’t block the view.”

On the west side of the plaza would be the play area for kids, with a food and beverage cabana next to it. The cabana can be operated by Petrocelli and would be for adults to relax while still keeping an eye on their kids, Long said.

The plaza area can also act as a flexible event space, a greenscape and have an “Instagram moment” — an area deliberately made for photos — which is in the renderings as giant letters spelling Riverhead.

Also presented by Long were renderings showing different layout options for the hotel and the Long Island Science Center. 

The Long Island Science Center is shown in two different sets of renderings: one with the planetarium on the roof of the building, and the other and another with the planetarium on the south-end of the building on the first floor, which would require expanding the building footprint into the plaza space.

Town Board members said they preferred the planetarium be located on the roof. Supervisor Yvette Aguiar, in a meeting of the town’s DRI local planning committee, objected to the LISC possibly putting the planetarium on town land.

A rendering by Urban Design Associates of the Riverhead Town Square presented to the Town Board at its work session Oct. 20.

Petrocelli’s hotel building is shown in two different sets of renderings: one with both the lobby and valet on the north side and another with the lobby and valet on the south side of the building. If the lobby was on the south side, along Heidi Behr Way, it would be blocking a pathway to the East End Arts campus, where the riverfront amphitheater is proposed, the renderings show. If the lobby was on the north side facing Main Street, the valet would have easier access to parking in the garage, but the building would not contain 3,600-square-feet of space for a museum, as originally proposed by the developer.

Long said the lobby being on Main Street “works a lot better” from the standpoint of a guest at the hotel, and having the lobby on the riverfront would make it more “complicated.”

The biggest piece of activation for the East End Arts campus would be the inclusion of the amphitheater stage and event lawn. The amphitheater can support more than 2,000 spectators, Long said, and offer a view of the riverfront.

The layout of the campus would have to change under the proposal to make way for the amphitheater and to adapt the historic buildings for flood mitigation. The Davis-Corwin House, the historic home at 133 East Main Street, adjacent to the proposed hotel, would also need to move slightly east. The plans also include a sculpture garden between the buildings and the amphitheater.

The Peconic Riverfront and Heidi Behr way would be further supplemented by several new additions, including oversized swings, a carousel, food boats, a boathouse with rentals and a flat barge that could be used to cross the river to the Maritime Trail Park proposed in Riverside, Long said.

Long also presented renderings not included in the “phases of activation” including how the town can improve the easternmost section of the riverfront and a 250-car garage on the west riverfront parking lot, which in the designs is lined with multi-story development. 

“We’re just recommending long-term that you reserve a site for an additional parking garage, if you need it. Because we’re a little bit nervous about putting all of our eggs in one basket in the north garage,” Long said. He added that the parking consultant would likely analyze the need for the garage.

Thomas said apartments and other businesses, such as the Vail Leavitt Music Hall, depend on parking in that lot.

Petrocelli proposed building a condominium building on that parking lot, and Thomas has said in previous interviews that the town is still in conversation with Petrocelli about development. It was not mentioned during the presentation.

Town Board members complimented the presentation and expressed excitement about the future development of the riverfront.

Joseph Petrocelli, a principal developer of the Town Square project, said he has been working with the town consultants on the activation plan and it presents “good direction” for development in the area. 

“We have a lot of work yet to do, but I think overall, it’s a good plan. I think it’s gonna work,” said Petrocelli, who was in the audience during the presentation.

Town employees and representatives from J. Petrocelli Development Associates and East End Arts in the audience of Barry Long’s presentation to the Town Board of the draft Riverfront Action Plan on Thursday. Photo: Alek Lewis

Thomas said a master developer agreement with J. Petrocelli Design Associates is still being negotiated. She said the agreement would be finalized late this year or early next year, after which the town would be required to hold a qualified and eligible sponsor hearing to execute the agreement and sell or lease the land.

Not present in the design plans by UDA was the inclusion of any elements of a street wall on the Main Street entrance to the square. Preserving the street wall was a condition of a letter of resolution with the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which allowed the town to demolish the two blighted buildings formerly located at the square and simultaneously pursue state grant funding for the project, including the Downtown Revitalization Initiative.

One of the goals for the Town Square was opening up Main Street to the riverfront, and to allow the Suffolk Theater’s marquee to be visible from the riverfront looking up at the Town Square. This goal runs contradictory to the conditions of the agreement with the state office. Thomas said in an interview after the meeting that the town is working with the state office “to make sure that what we’re doing here is going to be acceptable to them.”

While Long’s presentation on Thursday focused on the development within the Town Square, the riverfront park and the parking garages, it did not mention several other projects listed on UDA’s scope of work for the activation plan. 

Developments not discussed or only mentioned in passing during the presentation include the Muchnick apartments project (170-unit Metro Group proposal), the Suffolk Theater’s housing expansion, Petrocelli’s riverfront condo proposal, the Landmark at Riverhead proposal for the former West Marine building, and Hildreth Real Estate Advisors proposals. (Hildreth Real Estate Advisors is a holding company that owns about a dozen downtown properties, but does not currently have applications pending for any new construction.)

View the slideshow accompanying Long’s presentation to the board here: ClickHereforRiverheadDowntownActivanews119161500102022-030820PMa

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