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Riverside moves forward with crowdsourced solutions for revitalization effort

Community liaison Siris Barrios stands aside route 24

Community liaison Siris Barrios stands aside route 24 in front of an abandoned home and a retail glass business on Friday, January 16, 2015 in Riverside. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

A Plainview development company is entering the second phase of a "crowdsourcing" campaign to craft a revitalization plan for Riverside, the struggling community just south of downtown Riverhead.

Renaissance Downtowns LLC representatives have spent the past four months speaking to residents and gathering their ideas for developing the hamlet, in a brainstorming effort the company calls "crowdsourced placemaking."

Within the next week or so, company officials will ramp up outreach and ask residents to vote on their favorite ideas, said Siris Barrios, community liaison for the project, dubbed "Riverside Rediscovered."

The Southampton Town Board selected Renaissance Downtowns in 2013 to craft an economic revitalization plan for Riverside, where residents have long complained of abandoned houses, rundown buildings and criminal activity.

Some Southampton officials have said they believe the area has the potential to be a gateway to the Hamptons.

Renaissance Downtowns has overseen similar crowdsourcing projects in Hempstead and Huntington Station.

Riverside residents' ideas, 22 of which are posted on a project Web page, include a supermarket, farmers market, coffeehouse, Laundromat, civic center and affordable housing.

Another is to host arts events, such as "WaterFire," an annual festival in Providence, Rhode Island, featuring floating bonfires, on the Peconic River.

Barrios said the most popular ideas will factor into a "Riverside Redevelopment Action Plan" that recommends new zoning rules in the hamlet, expected to be submitted to the Southampton Town Board in April.

"Riverside, where it's at right now, it's kind of a blank canvas," she said. "This can be a very dynamic, vibrant project."

Vince Taldone, president of the Flanders, Riverside & Northampton Community Association, a civic group, said he was pleased with the firm's collaborative approach.

"It's happening quickly," he said. "I'm accustomed to things taking decades, with 400 volumes of studies on the shelves before anything happens."

Barrios said she has hosted monthly community meetings since the fall and walked door-to-door to inform residents.

The next community meeting is scheduled for Feb. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at the Riverside Rediscovered office, at 108 Peconic Ave. in Riverside.

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