Commissioners Deem Boathouse Ship-Shape

City Plan commissioners saw the latest designs for a new $30 million boathouse for New Haven harbor, then gave the plan their blessing as it readies for launch.

The City Plan Commission Wednesday evening granted a Planned Development District modification and the first ever flood plain variance to allow for the new “Community Boathouse at Canal Dock.”

Construction on the new 31,000 square-foot facility is scheduled to begin this fall, will the building ready for occupation by 2013.

On Wednesday evening in City Hall, the City Plan Commission took in a PowerPoint presentation with the latest specs on the project, then voted unanimously to approve it.

“This is one of the most exciting projects I’ve worked on,” said City Plan staffer Donna Hall, who has shepherded the project through development. It’s a plan that has been over 10 years in the making, she explained.

It began with the move to build a new I-95 Q Bridge, which displaced the old Adee Boathouse. After lengthy negotiations, the state Department of Transportation and the city signed a memorandum in 1999 agreeing that the state would help mitigate the loss of the historic building. That agreement led to the State Street train station, the Church Street South bridge, and the boathouse.

The state is putting up $30 million to make it happen. A non-profit has been formed to run the boathouse and no city money will be involved, Hall said.

The new building will include a section of the facade of Adee Boathouse, reconstructed and encased in glass. The facility will be an educational and recreational center and “contribute greatly to the life and culture of New Haven,” Hall said.

Architect Glenn Gregg showed commissioners the latest plans for the new building, which will comprise two stories on top of a 50,000 square-foot platform built out into the harbor off of Long Wharf.

The bottom floor will include storage areas for boats and other equipment. The top floor will be the more “public face” of the building, with a reconstruction of a room from the original boathouse, a kitchen, changing rooms, and a south-facing terrace.

The building will be in a flood plain. So the bottom floor will be constructed with walls that will break away in the event of a 100-year flood, said Chris Cardany, an engineer with Langan, the company spearheading the boathouse design. Such a flood would cause “a couple hundred thousand dollars” worth of damage, but not destroy the building entirely, said Gregg.

Roy Smith, vice-chair of the commission, asked about fishing off of the boathouse platform.

It will not be allowed, Hall said. Baiting, casting, and gutting are not compatible with the use of the space by rowers and sailors and kayakers, she said. Besides, she added, the water is relatively shallow there. It’s not the best spot for angling, she said.

The building and platform will be fully handicapped-accessible, Hall said. But the boathouse will not have handicapped parking. In fact, it won’t have any parking. Hall said the boathouse will work out partnerships with local public and private lots—including IKEA’s—to share parking.

Alderman Justin Elicker, a commissioner, said planners should consider whether there is a safe way for pedestrians to get to the boathouse from IKEA.

Hall said that could be addressed by future site plan reviews by the City Plan Commission.

Commissioners voted unanimously to approve the project.

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posted by: Spell Check? on July 22, 2011  7:19am

Who was Adee?
Was he or she related to Pardee?

posted by: john pirtel on July 22, 2011  7:58am

@ Spell Check?

“The rowing program at Yale began in 1843, and by the 1860’s Yale’s crew team had a simple barnlike boathouse, at the mouth of the Quinnipiac, used by students like George Augustus Adee, class of 1867, who was a particularly devoted oarsman. Yale experimented unsuccessfully with rowing on nearby lakes because New Haven harbor was exposed to strong weather, and the river itself was full of piers and shipping.

Adee, a banker and lawyer, maintained his connection with the “Yale Navy” until his death in 1908. By that time fund-raising was already under way for a new boathouse — and none too soon.

In February 1909, The New York Times reported that Yale’s first practice had been canceled when many floor beams in the existing boathouse were found broken.

The new $100,000 structure, named for Adee, opened in 1911, resting on 500 piles, with space for 50 rowing shells, and a broad boat ramp leading down to the water. At the time, Yale’s fleet consisted of two launches, 27 eight-oared shells, five four-oared shells and nine smaller boats.”

excerpt from:

Boathouse Built for the Bulldogs Is Soon to Bow Out

Published: February 19, 2006 New York Times

posted by: Stephen Harris on July 22, 2011  8:14am

Congratulations Donna. Let’s celebrate with a martini.

ps It’s still an ugly building ;-)

posted by: The 3rd Horseman on July 22, 2011  8:45am

“The state is putting up $30 million to make it happen.” Is this the same state that is laying people off to save money?

posted by: Bill on July 22, 2011  9:16am

I love it. State misspending at its best. How many lay-offs just happened, sales tax went up how much? Hey why not. Boathouses are needed more than state cops.
$30M wouldn’t help the budget gap anyway.

posted by: Pedro Soto on July 22, 2011  10:08am

To people grousing about the cost of this.. this money is almost exclusively coming from the Federal Government as part of the $1.3 Billion interchange project. This was essentially the settlement of bulldozing several businesses, and buildings to make way for the much expanded highway.
We got a new train station, a new bridge and a now a new community resource out of it, which will act as an anchor for a revitalized water front. How is this misguided spending?

How about this. Let’s just stop the project and leave the waterfront empty and enjoy the fifty cents we’ll get back in our taxes.

posted by: old timer on July 26, 2011  12:26pm

the state should have preserved the existing boat house on this original site and abolished the plan for the new q-bridge…instituted a rather more costly, however more benefical (long term) solution….tunnel 95’ under the harbor….reclaim new haven’s waterfront property!

posted by: Stephen Harris on July 27, 2011  6:01am

@old timer

The city managed to get a new boathouse as part mitigation for the highway. This was a difficult thing to get from the feds. A structural engineer said the boat house could not be saved or even moved as a unit to the new location because it was in such bad shape. The cost of a complete dismantle all of it was too high but we did manage to get some money to dismantle a portion of it to use in the new boathouse.

Many different I-95 scenarios were looked at. Putting the highway in a tunnel was rejected for cost (think big dig money). The mistake was made decades ago when the feds and state constructed the highway in the first place.

In a few decades when driving becomes a luxury due to the depletion of oil we can revisit the issue again.

posted by: unhappy on August 19, 2011  7:18pm

abandoning the project and leaving the waterfront empty?  that is the best idea i have heard.  the plans for this monstrosity look like it will be a blight on the waterfront, covering up precious water frontage on new haven harbor.