New Mystic boathouse design to be unveiled Saturday

Stonington — A year after residents roundly criticized the initial industrial-themed design of the boathouse proposed for the Mystic River Boathouse Park, the group that wants to construct the building will unveil a new design on Saturday.

The new design, which resembles a traditional New England barn with a cupola in preliminary sketches, will be shown during a public forum at 4 p.m. in the Stonington High School commons.

“This is a big milestone. We’re excited to come back and share this with the community,” said John Thornell of the Friends of Stonington Crew, on Sunday while stressing the boathouse is a “community project.”

He said that after residents criticized the initial design by a Boston firm, especially on social media, the Friends of Stonington Crew promised it would come back with a new design.

He said the organization went though eight different iterations of a new design before coming up with one that met with approval from the State Historic Preservation Office.

Last month the Board of Selectmen approved an agreement with the SHPO to preserve the existing house on the boathouse park property, which is considered a contributing factor to the Rossie Velvet Mill Historic District.

The original park plan had called for the demolition of the house and garage and construction of a boathouse whose modern design was intended to reflect the industrial heritage of the former Rossie Mill across the street. But SHPO would not allow the house to be demolished.

Under terms of the agreement, the house will now be moved 90 feet north along Route 27 and restored to historic standards. It will then be connected, by a small glass structure that will contain a rowing trophy room, to the two-story boathouse. Thornell said the Friends of Stonington Crew are still finalizing the design that will be unveiled Saturday.

The agreement between SHPO and the town removed a major hurdle for the development of the park.

Thornell said the park design also had to be updated to reflect the new boathouse design. He said that if the new boathouse design is supported by residents, the development of the park and the boathouse will move forward in tandem because he said it would not make sense to later dig up a new park to construct the boathouse.

The town is funding the creation of the public park while the Friends of Stonington Crew is funding the construction of the boathouse, which will be home to the Stonington High School crew team and community rowing program.

Thornell added that if residents support the new design, the Friends of Stonington Crew will resume fundraising for the boathouse in earnest.

In 2016, taxpayers approved $2.2 million in bonding to create the public park, while a private group of rowing supporters is raising money to construct the $2.5 million boathouse. With the historic preservation issue now resolved, the town will need further approvals for the work, including from the Planning and Zoning Commission and the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and will be seeking additional grant funding.

j.wojtas@theday.com

 

 

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