Here’s a look at the new town square that’s coming to downtown Riverhead


With the announcement that Riverhead Town will be receiving more than $24 million in grant money from the U.S. Department of Transportation, a proposed town square in the heart of the downtown is moving that much closer to reality.

“It’s pretty exciting, and it’s actually happening, not just an idea. So that’s the best part,” said Dawn Thomas, the town’s community development director.

Nearly $15 million of the federal money, combined with other grants, is being used to build a parking garage at the First Street parking lot, another $4.6 million will be used for streetscapes, with the other $4.8 million funding flood protection projects.

It’s those flood protection projects that will result in the new town square, which will have three components, Thomas explained.

First, what’s being called the upper square will amount to a public plaza that’s level with Main Street and flanked by mixed-use buildings on the east and west. The project on the east side will be a boutique hotel, which is being designed and built by J. Petrocelli Development. (Story continues below the proposed plaza rendering.)

The second component involves the construction of an adaptive playground and splash pad for children to the south of the plaza, closer to the Peconic River.

The town lastly envisions an amphitheater adjacent to the playground.

“All three of these projects double as flood mitigation as recommended by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers,” Thomas explained. “It’s really going to be a game changer because we have the designs and we have substantial funding.”

The land for the town square was cleared after the town purchased and razed two long-vacant buildings in October 2021, according to

The hope is to get started on the town square and hotel in about a year, and the garage a year after that, Thomas said.

As for the garage, with the funding in hand, Riverhead now has the opportunity to make the structure aesthetically pleasing, as well as functional.

The garage “will be set up to re-create the old First Street,” Thomas explained. “So it will have a police substation [and] redefine First Street between Roanoke and East avenues with sidewalks, lighting, wayfinding signage, landscaping, etc. It would never look bad, but now [the town has enough funding] to make it really nice.”

Connecting it all will be the streetscaping, which involves transforming the downtown into a more walkable community with more efficient crosswalks and curb bump-outs and other principles of what’s called the Complete Streets concept.

For instance, Thomas pointed to Griffing Avenue and Main Street as “exceptionally wide.”

“We would pinch in areas, like they did in Westhampton, add street furniture, trees, landscaping, signage. And now you’ve created a better environment for pedestrians so they’re more apt to park and walk,” she said. “It’s [all] incredibly exciting and truly long overdue for our amazing town.”

A public information session to discuss the proposals is being planned for July 10 at Riverhead Town Hall.

Proposed plaza renderings by LVF Landscape Architects.

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