MYSTIC — Audience reactions to the Mystic River Boathouse Park master plan and the Hart Perry Boathouse conceptual design were positive at a gathering last week when the plans were unveiled at Latitude 41 Restaurant, just south of the 1.5-acre park on Greenmanville Ave.
The $2.2 million park, designed by Chad Frost, project manager at Kent + Frost Landscape Architecture of Mystic, will include a boardwalk skirting the water’s edge, a public dock for launching small watercraft, a dock for crew shells, a parking area and open lawn. It will incorporate Living Shorelines, a sustainable method of controlling erosion and managing sea level rise using plants, sand and rock rather than a seawall.
The proposed $2.5 million boathouse, designed by Anmahian Winton Architects of Cambridge, Mass., is a contemporary two-story structure featuring a perforated building skin pattern created by a computer model of rowers’ stroke movements that would modulate the light. The building’s footprint is 10-by-45 feet, set near the street with a larger, cantilevered second floor that creates an “arcade” area mirroring the architectural “bump-out”and sidewalk arcade in the Rossie Velvet Mill across the street. The boathouse and mill arcade are aligned to create a “gateway” into Mystic Seaport along Route 27.
The boathouse would have a public bathroom accessible from the sidewalk entrance.
The 70 attendees at the presentation on Thursday applauded the park and boathouse designs and asked questions.
“I love this plan. It’s fantastic,” said Tom Sanford, co-founder and head of the Mystic River Rowers at the Mystic YMCA and a member of the boathouse capital campaign steering committee.
Matt Ferrier, of Mystic, said he was concerned about the feasibility of the on-street parking plan. The park needs 28 parking spaces and has 14 on site and seven parallel parking spaces proposed along Route 27. Frost said the project will need to partner with neighboring property owners to make up the difference.
“Parking along Greenmanville Avenue, I suspect, will be a nightmare to get in and out of during the summer and we have issues with the side of the road as it is,” Ferrier said.
Parking will become an issue during regattas in the spring and fall when trailers will haul shells to the site, buses will drop off rowers, and spectators will line the shoreline to watch the races.
Frost said the parking was consistent with state standards and would contribute to “traffic calming” along Route 27 by slowing traffice.
Stonington voters approved a $2.2 million bond in September 2016 to create the park and in January 2017 approved acquiring the property for $1.67 million.
The boathouse will be funded by Friends of Stonington Crew, a nonprofit that supports the Stonington High School crew team. The building will house the high school crew team and become a community rowing center. Once it is built, Friends of Stonington Crew will donate the boathouse to the town and lease it back for $1 per year.
After the presentation, First Selectman Rob Simmons, who chairs the Mystic River Boathouse Implementation Committee, said he was grateful for the audience’s applause.
“I value the comments that were made,” he said. “They were in large part positive, which I think is a reflection of the hard work we put into this to bring this project forward to this point, looking at variables and doing assessments.”
Mike O’Neill, vice chair of the implementation committee and former coach of the high school crew team, said that more than $400,000 had been raised for the project so far. He said that after 20 years of borrowing workout spaces and using the Mystic Seaport dock, the crew will have a place to call home.
“This a major milestone for the team and the community,” O’Neill said.
Construction is slated for next year pending approvals from state agencies and the town Planning and Zoning Commission.