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Riverhead Revisted

slide3By Ruth Thomas

Historic downtown Riverhead is currently undergoing a renaissance unlike anything seen before.
On Main Street there are new breweries, fine restaurants, yogurt cafés, tea shops, art galleries, music stores, new apartments, office spaces, and more. Riverhead is becoming a vibrant downtown once again.

Town Supervisor Sean M. Walter observes, “Block by block, store by store seems to be working to keep the buzz alive in Riverhead.” Chris Kempner, Director of the Town of Riverhead Community Development Agency adds, “We are seeing an organic redevelopment of historic downtown Riverhead that involves cultural attractions and new small businesses that find the natural beauty of the location attractive – the historic buildings, the Peconic River and within proximity to the Long Island Expressway and demographics that make Riverhead a retail powerhouse.”

Beginning with the restoration of the historic 1933 Art Deco Suffolk Theater by co-owners Dianne and Bob Castaldi, completed in 2013, Riverhead’s transformation has been steadily gaining strength. Bob Castaldi also purchased the historic Second Street Firehouse just north of Main Street, and plans to restore it to house Long Beard Brewing Company and possibly a restaurant/caterer and an Agritourism Center. Paul Carlin and Craig Waltz, co-founders of Long Beard Brewing Company hope to have the tasting room open for business by March 2016, modeling it after the interior of a Viking ship.

Meanwhile, Manhattan commercial real estate broker Georgia Malone together with business partner Amir Korangy, publisher of The Real Deal magazine, purchased and renovated Thirty West Main into shared office spaces. Ten of the 27 second and third-floor offices at Thirty West Main are now occupied. Music & Arts, a national music store just opened on the ground floor. In addition, Malone recently purchased 20 West Main, which Allied Optical Plan has occupied for the past 55 years. Malone plans to convert the building’s first and second floors into private offices with its third floor possibly becoming a shared kitchen space.

Several residential properties also opened up including Summerwind Square apartment complex overlooking the Peconic River, Woolworth Revitalization building on Main Street with the new gym Maximus Health and Fitness on the first floor, and 1 East Main Street. Most recently, Peconic Crossing, a new five-story, 45-unit apartment building on West Main Street, proposed by developer Conifer Realty gained preliminary site plan approval. Also the long-vacant former Sears building and three adjacent buildings are in contract with developer David Gallo of Georgica Green Ventures, LLC, a deal hailed by town officials as the biggest step toward revitalizing downtown. A five-story building is planned with stores on the ground floor, about 160 apartments on upper floors, and underground parking.

In a press release, Town Supervisor Sean M. Walter said, “I am truly excited about what this deal means for the future of downtown Riverhead. The redevelopment of these four buildings in the middle of downtown Riverhead will prove to be a boon to the businesses district and the entire Town of Riverhead. Once again, the block by block approach to redeveloping Main Street is proving to pay huge dividends.”

Viva L’Arte Center, a new building project proposed for the vacant lot between Barth’s Drug Store and Haiku Sushi begins construction in the spring. Sculptor Giancarlo Biagi and his business partner Jill Burkee, publishers of Sculpture Review magazine, plan to build a three-story building on the empty lot. They propose to have an art gallery on the ground floor and artist lofts on the upper floors.

Downtown Riverhead is gradually becoming a gourmet town. This year several restaurants opened along East Main Street including PeraBell Food Bar, featuring American-Eclectic fare and Two Brothers Take & Bake Pizza, where you can choose your dough and toppings and take it home to bake it. Vital A Tea, an organic tea and natural juice bar, owned by Carolyn Poncato, also offers free meditation and yoga sessions. The Sweet Tart Frozen Yogurt Café features creamy real yogurt and yummy toppings. The new restaurant Mazi, owned by John and Christine Mantzopoulous offers delicious Mediterranean cuisine. In addition there is Crooked Ladder Brewing Company, Long Island’s newest microbrewery on West Main Street, Joe’s Garage and Grill on the Peconic waterfront featuring New American cuisine, Vines & Hops Café featuring a full bar with small plate appetizers and live music, and Goldberg’s Bagels on East Main Street. Not to mention elegant Tweed’s Restaurant & Buffalo Bar, owned by Edwin Tuccio located in the 1896 Victorian landmark John J. Sullivan Hotel, and Dark Horse Restaurant, an American style French Bistro, owned by Tuccio’s wife, Dee Muma.

The Long Island Aquarium & Exhibition Center will present several holiday events including, Fish & Sips, the Eighth Annual Wine Tasting Event on November 13, featuring over 20 local wineries. On November 15, indulge in the Chocolate & Sweets FantaSEA Fest, with over 40 chocolate and sweets vendors. On December 13, enjoy the delightful Santa Brunch in the waterfront Sea Star Ballroom. Stay at the Hyatt Place Long Island/East End, a 100-guest room hotel with both indoor and outdoor swimming pools.

A year-round Farmer’s Market opened on Main Street last year and is still going strong. This past Halloween the Second Annual Edgar Allan Poe Festival took place, a three-day event with surprise characters and events throughout downtown.

It is an exciting time to be a part of downtown Riverhead. With every new shop, restaurant, gallery, or gym opening up on Main Street, the entire area is being transformed into a thriving community. Discover the magic of downtown Riverhead and make it your destination.