A vision for a 4000-square-foot multi-use community building on Ludlam Avenue in Riverside may not entirely come to fruition as some had hoped, at least not now.
Southampton Town Board officials announced at a work session meeting September 13 that what could be a place that hundreds flock to for family services, math and science programs, and even traveling museums will begin in phases — the first being a 2000-square-foot building with exhibition space, a foyer, a classroom, and bathrooms.
“We’re a little disappointed, because this is going to be wildly popular,” said Ron Fisher, the president of the Flanders, Riverside and Northampton Community Association, adding that he is also frustrated to hear that the property is now going to be a shared facility with the town.
“We have an elementary school with over 500 kids literally within walking distance. We know this facility is going to be needed and I’m just disappointed to see one classroom that can maybe accommodate 15 kids,” he added.
Fisher had worked with Jeffrey Patanjo, senior engineer at Bohemia-based consultant Savik & Murray and town Parks Director Kristen Doulos on the rendering of the project, which over its three phases would include another classroom with a folding partition and an imagination playroom, along with connecting corridors.
“It started with a smaller idea of renovating a bathroom structure that was on the property and continually evolved from there,” Doulos said. “It will offer more opportunities for an economically-depressed Riverside area to experience arts and cultural programs that are fun and educational.”
Stephen Long, president of Children’s Museum of the East End, hopes to use the building to further the museum’s mission of reaching more children on the East End. He said the location could help drum up more interest from those who don’t want to trek the additional 30 minutes in traffic to get to the CMEE facility in Bridgehampton. Town programs will most likely have a fee, according to Doulos, but Long said some of the CMEE events currently in Riverside at Renaissance Downtowns’ office space are already free.
“The goal is to have a space where we’ll have exhibitions and kids can come and do afterschool programs,” Long said. “The town has really been tremendous in being responsive to the community needs. That’s why we’ve been in Riverside, because we see the engagement there. We want to get this project going.”
According to Patanjo’s presentation during the work session, the structure will be wood framed with maintenance-free cedar shingle siding and an asphalt shingle roof, have waterproof vinyl flooring, and be solar ready. There will be LED lighting with wall washers to illuminate artwork and a kitchen will consist of a microwave oven for warming, a refrigerator, and sinks to accommodate
Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman said he’s also in favor of the project, which will also have a handicap ramp to make it Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, be landscaped, and include additional storm drainage. While he, too, said he sees the great need, he added he knows the town’s current spending limits, which is why he approved the project in phases.
“Riverside is one of the poorest areas of the town and really the county, and this would bring something of real educational value to the children,” he said. “If I thought we had money in place for all three phases, I would build the entire project today, but right now material and construction cost is high, even after taking the lowest bid, and we have all sorts of infrastructure needs we’re budgeting for. I’m not saying that this isn’t important, because we want to revitalize this area and invest in the community, but we have to work within our availability.”
Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone said an estimated cost of the project will be presented at the end of the month. FRNCA helped secure a state DASNY grant and Community Development Block Grant, collecting over $500,000. Fisher, who said fundraising efforts began at $150,000, said he’s hoping
more donations come in to help cover the cost.
“We want all three phases to be done immediately, so we’re pooling our resources and money,” Fisher said. “We feel that over the past five years we’ve proven the concept of how important CMEE is to the Riverside area and this building doesn’t reflect that need. I think the 4000-square-foot building project is stunning and provides support services to an area that’s struggling, so I see a ton of value. It will completely change the area.”