Yale Boathouse may be floated to new location

The city of New Haven is attempting to save the historic Yale Boathouse that stands in the way of proposed construction along Interstate 95 by floating the 93-year-old edifice down the Quinnipiac River to a new location east of Long Wharf.

Current plans to revamp I-95 include the reconstruction and extension of Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge, which would require condemning the property upon which the former Yale Boathouse sits. City and Department of Transportation officials are at odds regarding whether the boathouse should be torn down or relocated.

“I think it’s a reasonable project within the scope of widening I-95 in New Haven,” Mayor John DeStefano Jr. said. “The Yale Boathouse, if feasible, should be preserved at another site.”

A feasibility study undertaken last year addressed the possibility of moving the boathouse across the harbor to Long Wharf. Under the proposed plan, the building, which is two and a half stories tall, would be hoisted off its foundation, moved onto barges, and floated down the river to its new site. To minimize environmental concerns at its new location, the boathouse would sit on piles rather than on a solid landmass.

Karen Gilvarg of New Haven’s City Plan Department said the project would take at least a year to complete.

Cost estimates for transporting the building and constructing a new foundation vary between $10 and $21 million. Gilvarg said 80 percent of the funding would come from the federal government and 20 percent would come from the state.

Gilvarg added that in addition to preserving a historic monument, moving the boathouse to Long Wharf would concentrate maritime attractions there and showcase the building. Collaboration with the Amistad educational program would be facilitated as well, she said. The boathouse is listed on the Connecticut Register of Historic Places.

But some DOT officials are wary of the plan, citing, among other things, the cost of such an endeavor.

“The more financially prudent thing to do would be to either replicate the boathouse or salvage key elements,” DOT District Engineer Joseph DeMarco said.

DeMarco added that acquiring the necessary permits from the Department of Environmental Protection is time-consuming.

“It’s not only money, it’s time,” he said. “The time to do it would have an impact on the schedule for our bridge.”

DeMarco also questioned the historical significance of the building.

“[It] has basically been gutted — the historical significance is on the outside,” he said.

DOT spokesman John Wallace said that no decision has been made and that, structurally speaking, the Yale Boathouse may not be able to handle a move.

“Everything’s still on the table,” he said. “We’re looking at all options.”

Gilvarg accused members of the DOT of inflating costs and said they do not want to move the boathouse.

“This is an important historical boathouse,” Gilvarg said. “We want it saved.”

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