MYSTIC — On a chilly morning, about 30 architects toured the site of the future Mystic River Boathouse Park on Friday. They were responding to the Town of Stonington’s Request for Qualifications, part of the process of hiring an architect for the $2.2 million Hart Perry Boathouse, which was sent out last month. Sealed bids are due on Feb. 21.
Stonington residents voted in 2016 to acquire the 1.6-acre property, located at 123 Greenmanville Ave., which fronts the Mystic River and abuts Mystic Seaport. The park will offer public waterfront coastal access and a boathouse for the Stonington High School crew team and community rowing programs.
Friends of Stonington Crew, a nonprofit group, kicked off the Hart Perry Community Rowing Center Capital Campaign on Sept. 22 with a goal of raising $2.5 million, comprised of $1.5 million from private donors, who will be given naming opportunities, $500,000 from the community, and $500,000 from corporate partnerships. Perry, a North Stonington resident, was an influential rower, crew coach and advocate of the sport.
The friends group will pay for the design, engineering and construction of the boathouse, which will become a town municipal building once completed. At that point, the friends group will become a tenant of the boathouse and will operate its rowing programs from the facility.
Mike O’Neill, vice chairman of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee and director of rowing for Friends of Stonington Crew, spoke with the architects and said there was a lack of access to the water for small non-motorized craft in Stonington.
“Part of what gained us support of the park is the idea that it gives people in the town a place where they can pull a car in,” O’Neill said, and put a paddle board or kayak in the water.
About 120 students use the current boathouse but O’Neill said 600 to 700 people would be able to use the new facility, especially with the establishment of community rowing programs. “We expect to see literally six times more people and what we’ll do is run a morning and an evening program,” he said. “We will run rowing programs spring, summer and fall, and then we’ll have winter training.”
The current crew shell storage facility and a single-family residence will likely be demolished to open up sight lines along the road, said O’Neill. “One of the things we had offered to the town is opening up a view so that when you drive down this road, you get a nice view of the flagpole at the Seaport,” he said.
The site also has excellent potential for using solar-powered technology because the boathouse roof could parallel the north-south road. “The site has a strong south roofline, that might be used for solar or green energy,” O’Neill said. “If we could offset some utility costs in the building that would be a very good thing.”
The goal is to build a structure that engages the community, he said.
“One of the things we see in partnering with an architecture firm is really getting everyone very excited about this,” he said. “We really want to come up with something that’s unique, that everyone gets behind.”