The Suffolk Shares Plans for $2 Million Riverhead Revitalization Grant

Exterior rendering of The Suffolk expansion project
Exterior rendering of The Suffolk expansion project
Courtesy The Suffolk

The Suffolk in Downtown Riverhead (118 E. Main Street) shared details this week about how the historic theater will use a $2 million grant that was awarded as part of the $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative announced by Governor Kathy Hochul in December.

Gov. Hochul named The Suffolk among eight transformational projects in the Town of Riverhead’s revitalization initiative, and the $2 million (one of the largest individual grants) will be used to expand its back-of-house functions.

Wednesday’s announcement offers specific plans for this expansion project at The Suffolk, including deepening the stage by 20 feet, adding a green room, six dressing rooms, artist restrooms, hospitality area, tour management office, and laundry facilities, as well as other support areas such as storage and more.

According to The Suffolk — which recently changed its name and put forward a new vision for the performing arts venue under Executive Director Gary Hygom — the outcomes of this project include: presenting larger acts both in physical size and celebrity; presenting a wider variety of performing arts such as circus acts, family and children’s shows, theatrical productions, and dance concerts, among other shows.

Interior rendering of The Suffolk expansion project
Interior rendering of The Suffolk expansion projectCourtesy The Suffolk

The grant will also allow The Suffolk to accommodate a wider breadth of community events and uses, including dance recitals, large-scale school events, educational workshops, offering a meeting space, rehearsal space, and more. Additionally, the project will give The Suffolk the ability to attract more visitors to the area, and strengthen the sustainability and longevity of the venue both structurally and organizationally for many years to come.

“With this support from the New York State Downtown Revitalization Initiative, The Suffolk will be able to play a large role in advancing Riverhead’s vibrant Downtown and enhancing residents’, visitors’, and business’ experience in the area,” the theater’s announcement explains, also noting, “As a cultural and economic anchor in Downtown Riverhead, The Suffolk is an unwavering supporter of New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative and its commitment to enhancing downtown areas like Riverhead for generations to come. The Suffolk is enormously proud to be a part of this initiative with its expansion project that will enhance arts and cultural activity in Downtown Riverhead.”

“We are ever grateful to New York State’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, the CDA, the Town of Riverhead, and everyone who helped facilitate this grant award,” theater co-owner Bob Castaldi adds. “This award is going to allow us to finally complete the vision we had 17 years ago of making this theater a true performing arts center. With an expanded space, we’ll be able to do bigger and better things for our community than we ever have before. Looking back at what we’ve been able to accomplish with the limited space we currently have, we are so excited to see what our future holds.”

Downtown Riverhead Revitalization
Artist’s renderings of potential Town Square that includes a riverfront children’s playground, near the East End Arts Council.

Additional Downtown Revitalization Initiative Projects

Along with $2 million for The Suffolk, Hochul announced seven more awards for projects in Downtown Riverhead that will “enhance streetscapes and public spaces, expand arts and cultural activity, and (increase) housing and business opportunities.

These awards include plans to add “enhanced streetscapes and public gathering places,” such as $3,240,000 for creating a new town square; $245,000 to enhance Peconic Park with an adaptive playground; $750,000 to enhancing the pedestrian realm along Main Street with additional safety measures at key intersection, and installing new trees and landscaping; and $250,000 for a rowing facility on the Peconic River.

Awards for “expanded arts and cultural activity” include $215,000 for a new entrance and welcome center at the library; and  $250,000 to implement a public art program.

A final $2,750,000 grant, for “increased housing and business opportunities,” will be used to construct a new mixed-use development with workforce housing and retail/commercial space lining a public parking structure.

“We are committed to revitalizing Long Island, and these investments will create a more walkable, vibrant downtown that will benefit generations of New Yorkers who call Riverhead home,” Hochul said.

Suffolk Theater in Riverhead
The Suffolk in RiverheadOliver Peterson

The Suffolk’s owners Bob and Dianne Castaldi spent eight years restoring the former Suffolk Theater, an Art Deco venue built in 1933, eventually opening in March of 2013. This grant marks the next phase in the historic structure’s evolution as one of the East End’s most beloved performing arts venues.

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