The Boathouse Build Begins

Paul Bass PhotosFifteen years after the city cried foul over a state highway expansion plan, workers drove sheet pilings into the harbor Monday to begin construction of a new $37 million boathouse aimed at bringing New Haveners back to the water.

The occasion was a groundbreaking for construction of the new two-story, 30,000 square-foot boathouse. It will replace a historic boathouse the state tore down in 2009 along the Quinnipipac River to make room for the expansion of the I-95 Pearl Harbor Memorial “Q” Bridge.

The state and federal governments are paying the entire cost of the new boathouse. It will sit on a 48,000 square-foot platform. It will have room for up to 150 boats, from individuals’ small craft to eight-person shells. A variety of colleges—University of New Haven, Quinnipiac University, maybe Yale—will use the building, as will community groups. A “community rowing” program is in the works. (Click here for more details on the project.) Officials anticipate a fall 2015 opening. (Monday’s groundbreaking was for the platform; construction of the boathouse itself still has to go out to bid.)

It took 15 years to arrive at this day, Mayor John DeStefano noted at the groundbreaking ceremony, which took place on the deck at Lenny & Joe’s Fish Tales restaurant.

He recalled how city officials protested the original state plan for the I-95 widening, which wrecked homes and businesses along with the original circa 1911 brick Tudor-Style boathouse. Officials sought state concessions to help promote mass transit and waterfront activity, not just new asphalt for cars zipping by on I-95. Subsequent negotiations led to a state agreement to build a build to connect both ends of Church Street South over the railroad tracks; the new State Street train station; and now the new boathouse.

The mayor noted that the city has dealt with three governors and seven transportation commissioners since all those negotiations began.

“Good things,” he said, “sometimes take a long time.”

U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who found federal money for the project when it ran over the original $30 million state commitment, waxed philosophical. She noted that rowing—a primary anticipated use of the new boathouse—originated as a form of corporal punishment. Since then it evolved as a team sport that “is about teamwork ... People’s do not go into this for money.” The sport requires four or eight rowers and a coxswain to work together, all in the same boat, with “one goal in mind” (rowing faster). That represents the best model for advancing society, DeLauro observed.

Gregg, Wies & GardnerThe boathouse will connect to Canal Dock, which functioned as a shipping pier until the 1940s. At the time it connected to the end of the old Farmington Canal; crews transferred freight from barges to sailing ships, then from train cars, when the canal had become a functioning railroad.

Today that canal line has been converted to a biking and walking greenway trail connecting New Haven to Cheshire (and, eventually, to Northampton, Mass., if all goes well). The new boathouse will serve as the terminus of that revived trail—with a new purpose.

The city will own the boathouse. It has formed a not-for-profit corporation to manage it and seek revenues, from grants and fees to rentals of second-floor conference rooms. Officials expect the revenues to cover the cost of operations.


Post a Comment

Commenting has closed for this entry


posted by: Stylo on September 16, 2013  1:00pm

Fall 2015? Gubment projects sure do move slow.

posted by: Think About It on September 16, 2013  1:11pm

This is a great step!  It would be nice if they could expand this and create a bustling waterfront area to replace the current “food truck” & “drag strip” venue.

posted by: Noteworthy on September 17, 2013  6:01am

Does anyone like the design? I would have thought it would be well, more interesting looking. Maybe it’s just the drawings.

posted by: ramonesfan on September 17, 2013  9:42am

<< $37 million boathouse aimed at bringing New Haveners back to the water.  The state and federal governments are paying the entire cost of the new boathouse >>

The taxpayers are footing the bill for this?  This is something that ought to be privately financed. It’s nice to have a new recreational facility, but it’s quite an extravagance.  It isn’t as if the government is running a surplus, and can afford luxuries like a boathouse ...

posted by: TheMadcap on September 17, 2013  10:47am

“This is something that should be privately financed”

*never gets done*

posted by: Atticus Shrugged on September 17, 2013  11:41am

This is a great first step to revitalizing the waterfront.  I’m generally not a fan of government run projects but this seemed to be relatively necessary to spur investment in our waterfront.  If the project works well and turns a profit, it can later be sold for profit.  Further, it it works well and people begin to see the waterfront as a usable area, it may spur private developers to view development of the waterfront as a less risky venture. 

The design is rather lackluster and the article didn’t say anything about the “green” specs on the building - I hope its as “green” as it can be based on today’s standards - but it does the trick.  It’s just nice enough to attract visitors but the design isn’t so futuristic or forward thinking that it risks being obsolete in a few years. 

All in all, it seems to be a good bet.  Do we know whether there have been any negotiations with the local colleges and universities about renting the space?

posted by: RHeerema on September 18, 2013  2:23pm

Does anyone know if there will be rental kayaks or space for kayak storage?  Those possibilities would expand use of our great waterfront.