Boathouse Platform Will Cross Centuries

When a new boathouse comes to Long Wharf, the public will walk on water.

That whimsical prediction came from an architect Thursday night as city officials and project designers revealed final design details about a soon-to-arrive community Boathouse at Canal Dock before a gathering of two dozen boating and waterfront enthusiasts at the main public library branch.

City officials said the first phase of the $30 million-project is going out to bid this Sunday. That will cover the nearly acre-big concrete platform on 24-inch, storm-resistant concrete pilings atop of which the new/old boathouse will perch. If all goes well, the platform will be completed in August 2013 and the boathouse approximately a year later.

The city and state agreed in 1999 to build the new boathouse when the $2 billion I-95 and Q Bridge reconstruction effort got under way. The Q Bridge project destroyed the historic Adee Memorial Boathouse on the east side of the harbor. To compensate, the state Department of Transportation (DOT) and the city signed a memorandum that has led to the building of the State Street train station, the Church Street South bridge, and now the new boathouse at Canal Dock.

Click here for an article that details the recreational, educational, and historical components proposed for the new boathouse. Its most dramatic feature is a two-story glass atrium, to be illuminated at night, that incorporates a full brick facade, finials, two sculpted bull dogs,and other original elements salvaged and saved from the Adee Boathouse .

“It’s called a boathouse. Think of it as a harbor-side community house,” said Rick Wies of Gregg Wies & Gardner Architects, who are the chief designers.

That’s where the walking on water comes in.

The surface of the spacious 55,000 square-foot platform, on which the 15,000 square foot boathouse is to sit, will be one large map in four sections each illustrating the harbor and coastline of New Haven as it has evolved. As you walk on the water and various coastlines, distinguished by varying styles of aggregate, exposed, and tinted concrete, you will see what the harbor was like in 1640, by which time the Nine Squares had been laid out; and then the changes wrought by 1850, 1877, and 1956, said Monica Perez del Rio, project manager with Dean Sakamoto Architects , who are charged with the educational or interpretive design

“The land is aggregate concrete and the water is concrete with a smooth broom finish,” said Perez del Rio. Along the reconstructed Canal Dock itself, which will run at the south end of the platform out into the harbor on a line parallel with Long Wharf, Perez del Rio’s team is creating 21 timelines while inside the atrium historical materials are focused primarily on the evolution of the boathouse itself.

The building will feature three primary materials, said John Plante of Langan Engineering and Environmental Services, whose company is leading the boathouse team for the city.  A strong orange terracotta facade on the Long Wharf Drive facing side gives a “nod” to the Flemish bond brick pattern of the old Adee, he said. The boat bays on the first level will be translucent insulated plastic panels, lined with separating strips of century-old wood salvaged from the original boathouse.

City Plan Department staffer Donna Hall—who was applauded for shepherding the project from the beginning and through “four governors, eight DOT commissioners, but only one mayor”—said the design honors the past by incorporating old boathouse materials and styles in a new building.

Wies said that while boathouses traditionally are constructed primarily to preserve boat owners’ precious craft, New Haven’s will also serve as a destination for a wide range of community uses. To that end the second floor makes it unique among boathouses, said Wies. Along with teaching and interpretive space, it will have two meeting/party rooms, one got up with a cathedral ceiling and original elements from Adee, and a second with flexible space that can accommodate several events at once. Both will have snapshot-inducing panoramic views of the harbor.

The city has invited Community Rowing Inc. of Boston to consult on how to create a menu of programs, like rowing clubs for inner city girls and boys, and fundraising events. The aim is for the new boathouse to be self-sustaining. The entire project is costing the city not a dime. A non-profit called the Canal Dock Corporation is being created to run the facility, and any profits eventually earned will be put back in for physical maintenance or for scholarship for boathouse program participants, said City Plan Commission Director Karyn Gilvarg.

In short, it will be operated like the Carousel at Lighthouse Point Park as a self-supporting enterprise. The city is also in talks with the University of New Haven to rent it some of the first-level boat bays and other space for its marine science program and labs.

That Darned Parking

Towards the end of the formal remarks, someone in the audience at Thursday’s meeting called out: “Has the first wedding been booked?”

That raised the question of parking; the boathouse plan provides for none. East Rock Alderman Justin Elicker raised the same question when plans went before the City Plan Commission.

Gilvarg replied that for most day-to-day use, the number of lots around would be sufficient. Most of the parking in the area is private; the city is in talks with property owners like IKEA to use its space when necessary, including for shuttles; this is how the city has managed large crowds that used to come to Long Wharf for fireworks. The city is also talking with DOT, which owns the land directly across from the site of the new boathouse.

Gilvarg reassured an audience member that if his children married and invited 400 guests to a spectacular wedding at the new boathouse, the details, parking-wise, would work out fine.

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posted by: anonymous on July 13, 2012  8:42am

A self-supporting community center is a good idea, but one major detail was overlooked: Who will want to use a facility in the shadow of a 10 story high highway off-ramp?

Also, how will people be able to get here safely, if they aren’t coming from Downtown or Yale? The sidewalks, bike routes, and bus connections, from neighborhoods including Fair Haven, Hill, Tomlinson Bridge/Annex, and other areas are either completely nonexistent, or extremely unattractive, or sun-baked w/ no trees, or dangerous, or a combination of all four of these things.

posted by: Curious on July 13, 2012  10:46am

YES!  Kayak rentals, please!  The closest place to New Haven is 30 minutes north, on the mouth of the Indian River.  I pay $16 an hour there, and would love to be ale to spend that money here in town instead.

posted by: anonymous on July 13, 2012  11:13am

I agree with Curious on the above.

posted by: Walt on July 16, 2012  11:36am

Looks nothing like the old Boat House . 

Not near the old Boat House site.

Will not   have the Yale Boat House boats for which the original place was named

Offers neighborhood services without a surrounding neighborhood of people to use it,

Paid for with our tax money rather than Yale money

Will generate its own money for future operations and maintenance!!!

Let’s   take a look in a few years and see whether or not this group and the East Rock horse folk have done better for the general populace than the   elitist Shubert folks did on their promises of profitable operations there.

Hope so, but doubtful.

posted by: Stephen Harris on July 16, 2012  11:39am

Well , Donna, that didn’t take too long. So…...what’s next?