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Mar 26, 2014 12:06 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Residents, Town Officials Hope Park Will Anchor Downtown Revitalization In Hampton Bays

Mar 26, 2014 12:06 PM

A roundtable discussion among civic leaders and community members held Monday night on the future of downtown Hampton Bays reached a common consensus: revitalization of Main Street hinges on whether the hamlet can offer an amenity that will attract both visitors and locals.

The next night, the Southampton Town Board awarded a contract to a New Jersey architecture firm that will design the plans for a park that many hope will serve as the recreational anchor that the hamlet has been missing.

MKW Landscape Architecture was given the $200,000 contract on Tuesday night by the Southampton Town Board to design Good Ground Park, a facility that will feature an amphitheater, walking trails and, potentially, a row of commercial properties facing into the park directly behind Main Street. The town snubbed Southampton-based Araiys Design Landscape Architecture and Manhattan-based Nancy Owens Studio LLC, the other two finalists for the project.

The Town Board awarded the contract to MKW following the recommendation of a search committee headed by Deputy Town Supervisor Frank Zappone that presented its findings last Thursday, March 20, during the board’s work session. The search committee, which was made up of civic activists and town officials, said it selected MKW because its proposal encompassed the desired features for the park, while also noting the firm’s experience in designing similar facilities.

John Williams, president of MKW, said Wednesday morning that work on the project should start as soon as a contract is signed.

The 36-acre park, which will be constructed on land that runs from Montauk Highway north to Sunrise Highway and along Squiretown Road, was purchased by the town for $3.5 million in 2003 from the Rosko family. Mr. Williams said he and his company are “tremendously excited” to help bring the plans to fruition after more than a decade of discussion.

“The reason we were so interested is because it really isn’t just a recreational park with play fields and ball parks,” he said. “It’s really a destination and a very special space that can bring great public use, but also has the ability to enhance and increase economic activity in Hampton Bays, including new restaurants, cafes, kiosks and retail spaces,” Mr. Williams said.

The MKW design will be based roughly on a park concept created by the town last summer that was used to secure a $128,519 grant from the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. That concept includes an access road from Squiretown Road that will run parallel to West Montauk Highway. Because that would be a town road, Southampton Town Councilwoman Bridget Fleming explained Tuesday afternoon, the town will be able to allow businesses to operate along the town’s right of way inside the park.

The state grant funding the design portion of the project requires that the plans be ready by June, Mr. Williams said. That way they can be submitted with the town’s grant application for funds to construct the park, which is expected to cost about $2 million.

Most of the park will be kept preserved with the amphitheater being the premiere feature used to host concerts and shows, all in accordance with public input gathered last year.

Approximately 45 people attended Monday night’s Hampton Bays Civic Association meeting in the Southampton Community Center in Hampton Bays to discuss strategies for improving Main Street. Many in attendance agreed that the hamlet as a whole lacked a significant draw for summer visitors outside of the beaches and waterways, neither of which is near the downtown area.

Some suggestions were floated to incorporate natural resources into the hamlet center, such as running a town-operated shuttle between the Shinnecock Canal and the downtown business district, or to rely on the proposed Canoe Place Inn Maritime Planned Development District as a draw for visitors. That plan, which proposes renovating the Canoe Place Inn as a catering hall and constructing 40 townhouses on the east side of the canal, is still being reviewed by the town.

East Quogue resident and Hampton Bays native Bill Stubelek suggested Monday that if the residents of Hampton Bays are trying to reinvent their community, they should turn to Greenport Village as a model. That village features a microbrewery, an antique carousel and a public marina—amenities that make the community stand apart from others.

Mr. Stubelek also lambasted Southampton Town for being “anti-business” and for discouraging nightclubs despite their success.

“There’s nothing to do here, there’s nothing to do in the town. You’re not gonna get people to come for the weekend, you’re not gonna get people to come for the summer,” he said. “You’ve chased all the young people out. The people here can say what they want about young people, but young people spend money.

“You have no prospects toward growth until you have a set identity and you allow the town to work toward that identity,” Mr. Stubelek continued.

Along with adding a new downtown attraction, other common themes discussed Monday were that the storefronts in the corridor lacked homogeneity, while the businesses themselves had an overabundance of it.

“We have banks, we have pizza and we have beauticians,” Hampton Bays Civic Association Vice President Bruce King said, adding that the hamlet needs a wider variety of stores in order to have an attractive downtown.

Mr. King proposed an effort to encourage the stores along West Montauk Highway to have a more uniform look, as is the case in other hamlets and villages within the town.

Other suggestions included adding more outdoor seating in front of restaurants and playing up the historical features of the hamlet, including making the Lyzon Hat Shop on Montauk Highway, which was designated a historical landmark in 2012, an active museum.

During the civic meeting, Ms. Fleming described the intended impact of Good Ground Park on the community, with the idea being that people will come to Hampton Bays for shows and then “spill out” into stores and restaurants.

In terms of shaping the downtown as a whole, Ms. Fleming recommended that those at the meeting remain active.

“I would say you need to stay involved ... it’s very, very important that the Chamber of Commerce and all the groups that are focused on business can make sure that your voices are heard in these processes—you’re much more likely to get what you think is important,” she said.

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And what will become of Red Creek park? The skate park is a disaster! Clean it up over there!
By rstephens (2), Hampton Bays on Apr 2, 14 2:24 PM
$200,000 to design a park? yikes.
By user.name (46), the jungle on Apr 2, 14 4:50 PM
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.
By sgt202 (75), Hampton Bays on Apr 19, 14 12:01 PM
1 member liked this comment
I wonder how much maintaining and policing this park will cost the tax payers.
By sgt202 (75), Hampton Bays on Apr 19, 14 12:03 PM
8k run & 3 mile walk, Agawam Park, Southampton Rotary Club fundraiser