The road to progress, a wise person once said, is not always a smooth one. It can be laden with bumps, potholes or, in the case of Main Street in Westhampton Beach, something more. The hope is always, of course, that the end of the road proves the journey to have been worthwhile.
A pair of projects has seen Main Street closed to vehicular traffic starting this September, as the Suffolk County Water Authority replaces water mains under the road while a longer-term undertaking has utility lines going underground, storm drains being improved and new sidewalks and curbs going in. Naturally, there are proponents and dissenters, and ongoing debate around what’s happening, the timing and the scope and the cost and other aspects of contention. Yet amid the myriad concerns and opinions, a singular fact remains:
Main Street is open for business.
“While our Main Street looks like something out of an old cowboy movie, we have plenty of parking in our municipal parking lots and our restaurants and shops are still open with plenty of great sales to enjoy,” says Dee Kerrigan, owner of Kerrigan Country Realty and DeeAngelo’s “Pleasant Ave.” Café, both of which are welcoming patrons, as always. “It is a bit overwhelming but long overdue. We have to endure for a season or two, but, in the end, everyone will appreciate the finished product.”
The estimated completion time for all facets is eight months, with an eye on being up and running, polished and shined, in time for Memorial Day Weekend 2020 and the unofficial start of summer. Yet autumn has always been a special time in Westhampton Beach, and this year is no different in that regard.
“The biggest misconception is that Main Street is closed until spring!” says Jackie Doskoez, Sales Manager of Westhampton Beach Office of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. “We are definitely open. Businesses have their fall lines ready and the real estate offices are open—so stop by for coffee at the bakery, for a pumpkin scone and latte, a new sweater from the one of our boutique shops, or come in to see the great properties we have available.”
Look around. The exciting menus and art shows, the sales and theater productions and seasonal energy that fill the air each fall all remain during this time of transition. The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) has some 7,000 tickets already sold to School Day Performances throughout the school year, an almost-sold-out Graham Nash concert on October 11, a full slate of films, after-school classes and more. “We work in the theater, so we’re all about improvisation in the face of obstacles!” says WHBPAC’s Julienne Penza. “Our priority is keeping everyone safe and making visiting the theater as convenient and smooth as possible for our patrons.”
Creating a positive experience for every visitor, worker and owner will continue to take a concerted effort on the part of government officials and businesses. Such a project will by its very nature have unforeseen issues arise, and information can change quickly. “I think the town in general is handling the improvement project well,” Doskoez says. “There are a couple challenges that we are dealing with, such as garbage removal, direct access to both sides of the street and not enough parking close enough to our individual stores and/or businesses. I think that the owners and employees of the town have been working together to make sure we all stay informed about water outages and dates of projects, so I think as a collective, working together to all stay informed has helped so much with dealing with the few challenges.”
Once completed, the upgrades promise to make what is already a wonderful commercial and cultural destination all the more appealing. “All of the proposed amenities will draw more businesses and give our patrons a full experience,” Penza notes. “They won’t just come and see a show, they’ll be able to shop, stroll, have a choice of dining options.”
A rising tide lifts all boats. And roads and shops and restaurants and… “In the long run, our infrastructure will be stronger, our sidewalks more beautiful and our Main Street vibrant,” Kerrigan says. “This rebuilding of Main Street will only enhance the allure of our village.”