Riverhead’s push is underway to spur more business and investment in both its downtown area and the Enterprise Park at Calverton via a federal program that offers incentives for such investment.
About 90 attendees, including real estate developers, business owners and other potential investors, gathered Wednesday at the Hotel Indigo on Main Street to mark the kickoff of town efforts to draw potential investors to invest in its two Opportunity Zone areas. The event was arranged by Riverhead’s Community Development Agency and other town agencies.
Downtown Riverhead and the EPCAL property were among more than 500 census tracts that New York State officials recommended in May to the U.S. Treasury Department for designation as Opportunity Zones, a federal program designed to boost private investment in underserved urban and rural communities via tax benefits.
Town officials said they began work on marketing the zones after the federal government approved the program’s regulation in November.
“The sky is really the limit in what can be developed in the Opportunity Zones,” Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said Friday, adding that the event’s turnout was strong and that several interested parties had begun inquiring about developing in the Opportunity Zones.
For downtown Riverhead, the presentation town officials gave Dec. 5 highlighted the area’s:
- “Strong” tourism — including 400,000 annual visitors to the Long Island Aquarium on Main Street — and 12 to 15 million annual visitors to the Tanger Outlets on West Main Street;
- Access to town sewer and public water districts;
- Recent Main Street investments, including the Preston House, a restaurant and 20-room boutique hotel; and the 45-unit affordable housing complex Peconic Crossing;
- Quick access to the Long Island Expressway and state routes 25 and 27.
Officials touted the 2,700-acre EPCAL site's:
- "Low-cost" space
- Access to main thoroughfares
- Freight rail access
- 10,000-foot active runway
- Proximity to Northeast markets.
In the coming months, Riverhead officials will seek to further market those areas via the town website and other initiatives, said Community Development Administrator Dawn Thomas.
As part of those initiatives, Jens-Smith said the Riverhead Town Board will discuss possible legislation to fast-track permits for any proposed projects or developments in either of the designated Opportunity Zone areas.
Such legislation had not been formalized, the supervisor said, but added that she “would love to see it become an easy, seamless process” for potential developers in those areas.