A Plainview development company hopes to transform the most economically distressed part of the East End into a bustling, pedestrian-friendly gateway to the Hamptons.
Representatives of Renaissance Downtowns LLC Thursday gave the Southampton Town Board a 200-page plan to revitalize Riverside, the struggling hamlet just south of downtown Riverhead.
The Riverside Rediscovered Action Plan recommends new zoning that would allow buildings with apartments above and storefronts below, and a promenade along the Peconic River, according to a summary given to town officials Thursday.
The plan is subject to approval by the town board and a state environmental review.
Riverside, home to 3,000 residents, has struggled for decades with poverty, crime and roads lined with deteriorating houses and shuttered businesses. Southampton has commissioned four studies of the community during the past 15 years.
In April 2014, Southampton officials selected Renaissance as master developer in a new push to revive the hamlet. Representatives of the company spent nine months gathering ideas and feedback from hundreds of residents, some of whom applauded as the plan was handed to town board members.
"I really want it to succeed," resident Linda Testagrose said Thursday. "Too many times, we've waited for something good to happen and it hasn't. We're the forgotten part of Southampton."
Riverside has the worst economic statistics of any community in Suffolk County, including the highest unemployment and poverty rates, and the lowest median income and high school graduation rate, according to a Renaissance Downtowns analysis.
With the right zoning and investment, it could be a scenic community with a thriving downtown and much-needed housing for the East End's workforce, said Renaissance vice president Sean McLean.
"It has over 1,000 acres of preserved property and four miles of waterfront, yet it's the most disinvested hamlet" in Southampton, McLean said at the meeting.
Renaissance's proposed zoning plan would create a built-up "hamlet center" around a busy traffic circle, and other districts for town houses, single-family houses and businesses. It also calls for opening up park land on the riverfront, which is covered in thick woods with no public access.
Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst praised the effort, but said much of the revitalization depends on county funding for sewers, the lack of which has stalled development in Riverside.