Southampton Town officials say they have now secured enough money to break ground early next year on Good Ground Park, a recreational facility to be built on 36 acres in downtown Hampton Bays that will boast retail shops and be anchored by an outdoor amphitheater.
The estimated $4 million project, which has been kicked around for more than a decade and largely delayed due to funding issues, is now set to be completed in two phases, according to Southampton Town Deputy Supervisor Frank Zappone. The park itself, however, is not expected to be opened to the public until the summer of 2017.
The Town Board is expected to approve a contractor next month, meaning that phase one of the project should start in January. That phase includes making way for what some have described as a “second Main Street” that will run parallel and just north of West Montauk Highway, and be nestled along the southern border of the park that will run westward from Squiretown Road. The road will feature shops, a plaza that can be used as event space, approximately 100 diagonal parking spaces and sidewalks. A row of trees planted on a grass median will separate the two lanes of traffic.
Work will then begin on the outdoor amphitheater that will also be built in the southern portion of the park and be capable of accommodating up to 800 people at once. It will feature both stone and informal hillside seating that will surround an elevated stage. There will also be an open lawn allowing visitors to set down blankets and chairs.
Also included as part of the first phase is all of the required utility work, including the installation of water, power and gas lines, according to Mr. Zappone. “They are contracted to do it all,” he said.
On Thursday afternoon, November 19, State Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. and Senator Kenneth LaValle announced that they had secured the final $1 million that the town needed to put the plans in actual motion. The town previously set aside $1.9 million in Town Capital Funding for the park to go with an additional $943,000 in grants it secured from the State Department of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, as well as the Empire State Development office.
“I really do think it will be a game-changer,” Mr. Thiele said of Good Ground Park after the press conference. “It will change the whole focus of downtown Hampton Bays and really create some economic development here. It’s well-planned and I think the town really did a terrific job here.”
Over the next month crews are expected to start “clearing and grubbing” the property in preparation of the upcoming work, Mr. Zappone explained. Namely, they will be cutting down and removing dead trees and undergrowth, as well as tossing debris.
Mr. Zappone added that construction crews will head to the park “sometime in January” to start phase one.
The second phase of the project—no start date has been offered and it is unclear how long it will run—calls for putting the finishing touches on the new facility. That work includes installing a children’s playground, the clearing of walking trails, and the installation of a bicycle path, picnic tables and other amenities.
Southampton Town purchased the lot from the Rosko family in 2003 for $3.5 million. The purchase was funded through the town’s Community Preservation Fund.
Part of the plan calls for the installation of a walkway leading into the park from the front of the neighboring parcel that is now owned by the Hampton Bays Fire District. The fire district is expected to sell a portion of that land to the town for $400,000 so it can be transformed into a park entrance, Hampton Bays Fire Commissioner Rob King previously explained.
Mr. Zappone said he expects that land deal to be closed before the end of the year.
“Hampton Bays is moving in the right direction,” Suffolk County Legislator and Supervisor-elect Jay Schneiderman said at the press conference. “From seeing these pictures and hearing the jazz on the speakers, I’m picturing the amphitheater playing jazz music.”
“We are looking forward to listening to a concert a Good Ground Park,” added Suffolk County Legislator-elect Bridget Fleming, also in attendance.
Town officials and some hamlet residents think that Good Ground Park will help renew interest in Hampton Bays, which has suffered in recent years from vacant storefronts and uneven pedestrian traffic.
“This will be the new commons when people aren’t going down to the water anymore,” said Kevin McDonald, a hamlet resident, regarding the second Main Street. “In other places on Long Island, the common place is a mall, but I think this is much nicer.”