Almost two dozen firms seek to design boathouse in new Mystic Park

Mystic — Twenty-three architectural firms, from Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, have submitted proposals to design the Hart Perry Boathouse at the proposed Mystic River Boathouse Park on Route 27.

“The response to our request has been really extraordinary — over the top,” said Rick Larkin, who is managing the fundraising campaign for the project. “and it shows the incredibly high level of interest in this project throughout the region.”

While Stonington voters have approved $2.2 million in bonding to buy the 1.5-acre site just north of Mystic Seaport and develop a public park, a private group of rowing supporters is raising money to construct a $2.5 million boathouse, which will be home to the Stonington High School crew team and the Stonington Community Rowing Club. The group already has raised $400,000.

First Selectman Rob Simmons, who is the chairman of the Mystic River Boathouse Park Implementation Committee, said Wednesday that the boathouse design project has attracted so many architects because it is a “legacy project on the Mystic River.”

“It’s a showpiece project on a unique piece of property,” Simmons said.

He pointed out that millions of people every year pass the site on their way to Mystic Seaport, Mystic Aquarium and the downtown.

“It would become an iconic project for any architect,” he said.

Included in the firm’s detailed proposals are descriptions and photographs of their other projects, including boathouses such as the Gilder Boathouse at Yale University and other waterfront buildings.

Simmons said the committee is in the third month of the 18-month project to develop the park. An environmental assessment is being conducted and Simmons said he expects the town to break ground on the project in the spring of 2019. The boathouse would be built when the rowing supporters complete their fundraising.

While slag, polychlorinated biphenyls and hydrocarbons have been found on the site, Simmons said he does not feel those environmental contaminants will cause a problem, as they can be dealt with by encapsulation. Asbestos and lead paint in the house scheduled for demolition on the site will have to be removed.

Plans call for 28 parking spots on the site. Because the park is expected to host rowing events and regattas while being open to the public, additional parking will be needed off site. Simmons said he does not want to allow parking along nearby Pleasant and Clipper streets, as that would impact residents in that neighborhood. He said the committee is beginning discussions with the Mystic Little League about using parking at their location at the end of Rossie Pentway. Mystic Seaport, which has hosted the high school crew team’s equipment and practices for years, also could be a possibility for so-called shared parking. Seaport President Steve White serves on the Boathouse Park Implementation Committee.

In a recent decision involving the Coogan Farm Nature & Heritage Center, though, the Stonington Planning and Zoning Commission said it does not support allowing shared parking for large events. The park project will need approval from the commission. 

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