As part of the Lake Avenue revitalization project in St. James, Celebrate Park is well under way to bring an inviting space to local residents.
On Wednesday, Nov. 4, Smithtown Supervisor Ed Wehrheim (R) joined other elected officials and members of the community to break ground at the soon-to-be Celebrate Park. The new park will sit on the lot formerly occupied by the Irish Viking bar located at 369 Lake Ave. and is part of an $8 million rebuild of St. James’ downtown.
During the press conference, Wehrheim said the project is seven months ahead of schedule.
“We are seeing the rebirth of this beautiful community,” he said. “Vacancies are down, assessed values are up and people are beginning to walk up and down Main Street again.”
The property where the bar sits was put up on a tax lien, and the town and Suffolk County worked together to acquire it through an intergovernmental contract. The space will eventually house a small park and municipal parking lot. The Lake Avenue entrance into the park will be through an arched ceremonial gateway flanked with informational brick piers. A clock will be centered at the top of the arch.
“The park is designed to provide a flexible inviting public space that is defined by classical elements that reflect the rich history of buildings and places in our Historic St. James Cultural and Arts District, and that will be a centerpiece of the downtown revitalization,” said Bob Retnauer, architect with RDA Landscape Architecture of St. James.
Celebrate Park is planned to be arranged around a classical ellipse walkway with the outer edge bordered by brick seat walls. The bricks can be engraved within the walkways and are available for purchase to commemorate families and residents. Festival lights will be hung across the park to create a welcoming atmosphere for anyone who visits.
Natalie Weinstein, president of Celebrate St. James, said the collaboration of local government and volunteers may seem unusual but, by working together, the vision of economic revitalization is getting close.
“It has been a bumpy road, as progress usually is, but when all the bumps are gone — as they soon will be — we can look back at this time and know we have done the right thing for our town, today and for its future,” she said.
Demolition of the Irish Viking bar began after the groundbreaking. According to Weinstein, the project should be completed by next spring.