Even a half-century ago, when Main Street was the epicenter of Riverhead, visitors most likely weren’t aware the Peconic River flowed just yards away.
The opening of the Long Island Aquarium and the refurbishing of the Suffolk Theater started a downtown rebirth, and now Riverhead town officials hope to take it a step further — a riverfront town square. And this time, the south side of East Main Street will open to the startling view of the river and park alongside of it, just a short stroll away.
“The objective would be to open up a vista from Main Street to the town square so that when you are on Main Street, you would see it,” said Dawn Thomas, Riverhead’s community development administrator. “If you ask many people who come to downtown Riverhead, they would tell you that they didn’t even know the river was there.”
The town square would be built primarily along a town-owned one-acre parking lot on East Main Street with about 80 parking spots. Additional funding would likely be required. Officials envision it will feature space for children’s activities, musical performances, and possibly a statue or other monument, Thomas added.
According to the town’s funding application, officials also pitched the town square as potentially containing smaller retail spaces and perhaps housing for artists, which would encourage pedestrian access to Riverhead’s existing Riverwalk and downtown parklands.
Thanks to $3.65 million the Peconic Land Trust was awarded as part of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s $761.5 million in statewide funding for 997 projects, announced December 19, the town is also looking to implement the next phase of its Regional Aquifer Protection Land Acquisition Program. The funds will be used to protect Long Island’s sole-source aquifer.