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Developers, officials tout $500G grant for Riverhead project

A $500,000 state grant is expected to help

A $500,000 state grant is expected to help move a multimillion-dollar revitalization project, which includes a food hall and market in downtown Riverhead, a step closer to reality. Feb. 1, 2017 Credit: Ed Betz

A $500,000 state grant is expected to move a multimillion-dollar revitalization project in downtown Riverhead a step closer to fruition.

The Riverhead project is one of three Long Island initiatives that received Round 4 funding from the Empire State Development Restore New York Communities Initiative municipal grant program.

As part of the projected $30 million project, Jericho–based developer Georgica Green Ventures will demolish several vacant structures in downtown Riverhead to create space to build 117 units of mixed-use, mixed-income workforce housing and more than 15,000 square feet of retail space.

Riverhead-based real estate investor North to South Development will also develop a 10,000-square-foot building on Main Street into the Riverhead Food Hall and Market, which is expected to house small retail spaces and shared commercial facilities for businesses geared toward agritourism.

Chris Kempner, the town’s community development director, said the funding will allow the food market portion of the project to move forward. She added that the grant should also make it easier for the developers to apply for more grants for other parts of the project.

Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter said that the town is “extremely pleased” with the news and that the funding will be key in helping move the project forward.

“We have seen tremendous, positive improvements over the past several years as downtown Riverhead attracts more and more private investment,” Walter said. “We envision these projects will create a downtown Riverhead that is an international destination for its beauty, quality of life, dynamic attractions, history and sense of place, built upon a small-town feel, welcoming to anyone from local resident to international visitor.”

When it comes to state grant funding, Riverhead’s investment in downtown projects has been a focus among town officials for several years. In 2009, Riverhead received a $2.4 million RESTORE NY Round 3 grant to help fund construction of the Long Island Aquarium Hyatt Hotel expansion that includes the Seastar Ballroom revolving exhibit.

A $250,000 grant awarded in 2012 from the state Office of Community Renewal was used to create housing above existing retail stores and make improvements to commercial buildings within Riverhead’s downtown Business Improvement District.

David Gallo, president of Georgica Green Ventures, said he is grateful the grant funding was awarded for the project, which he said is “an essential piece of the puzzle to help revitalize the community in historic downtown Riverhead.”

Michael Butler, managing partner of North to South Development, and developer of the mixed-use project on Main Street, said that while Riverhead had seen revitalization in the past few years, more attractions and activities are needed to increase downtown activity.

“We believe the Riverhead Food Hall and Market is exactly what is needed,” Butler said.

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