New boathouse to revitalize harbor

Three years after Yale’s historic George Adee Memorial Boathouse was razed, a new boathouse is coming to the Elm City.

New Haven Harbor became the first home to collegiate rowing in 1843, when Yale athletes began rowing there. More than 60 years later, in 1911, the George Adee Memorial Boathouse was constructed for the Yale crew at the bequest of former Yale rower George Adee. The boathouse was demolished in 2007 to accommodate the expansion of I-95, but this month the national engineering firm Langan Engineering and New Haven-based architecture firm Gregg Wies and Gardner Architects unveiled their design for a new $30 million boathouse in downtown New Haven.

The two-story Canal Dock Boathouse will be a 30,000 square foot building constructed on a 55,000 square foot platform that will extend into the harbor. The boathouse will also have places to launch kayaks and crew boats, and will accommodate the temporary docking of 26 boats. Construction is scheduled to begin in June 2011 with a proposed opening in January 2013.

New Haven, state and federal funds are financing the entire $30 million project because the Adee boathouse was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. (Federal law requires the government to compensate local communities if a federally financed infrastructure project, such as the I-95 expansion, destroys a historic landmark.)

Since it would have been prohibitively expensive to reconstruct the entire Adee boathouse, the new design incorporates several preserved parts of the original building, including its terra cotta and brick facade, City Planner Karyn Gilvarg ARC ’75 said.

“When you destroy a historic property that is eligible for listing in the national register, [the government is] required do certain things,” she said.

Gilvarg said the new building will give the New Haven community access to the water and will hopefully enliven the waterfront area. Former Yale heavyweight crew coach David Vogel, who is a consultant for the project, said the structure will draw people to the site for rowing, kayaking, canoeing and sailing.

“There are an awful lot of people who can take advantage of [the boathouse],” said John Plante, a Langan Engineering senior associate. “If Yale chooses to, they can be among those who take advantage of it.”

The new boathouse will be only two miles away from campus, and Sam Gardner ARC ’82, one the building’s architects, said he hopes the University will use the new space.

But men’s lightweight crew coach Andy Card said the rowing teams have little reason to spend time anywhere but their current facility: the Gilder Boathouse on the Housatonic River in Derby, Conn., which is about a 25-minute bus ride from central campus — and which he called “the best in the country.”

Yale’s crew stopped using the Adee boathouse in 1923, when it started rowing exclusively in Derby because harbor traffic was increasing. Men’s heavyweight coach Stephen Gladstone said the heavyweight team is unlikely to use the new boathouse because, though the harbor is good for recreational boating, the Housatonic is better for training.

Yale women’s rowing coach William Porter did not respond to requests for comments

Whether Yale varsity teams use the new boathouse or not, officials said the new structure will also have a positive impact on businesses in the waterfront area.

“Any time you add an asset like this, it sends the right message to customers and encourages patronage at surrounding businesses,” said Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce President Anthony Rescigno.

Gilvarg said the facility’s intended beneficiaries are New Haven’s recreational boaters. Judd Rosenblatt ’11, who organizes canoe trips for Yale Outdoors, said the student group is likely to store kayaks and canoes in the new facility. Many members of Yale Outdoors left their canoes at home this fall, he said, because they did not have a place to store them. As a result, the group has needed to rent boats for its excursions, he said.

Vogel said the boathouse will also support New Haven’s burgeoning rowing culture.

For example, local non-profits will be able to use the space. New Haven-based Schooner Inc., which promotes environmental awareness, plans to use the new building’s classrooms to educate the community about marine life, said Kristen Andrews, Schooner’s executive director. She added that the facility will be a place where local schools can access state-of-the-art technology.

“If any program, whether it be a high school or a university, wanted to run a program out of the boathouse, the canal dock corporation will be renting space out,” Vogel said.

The new building will pay tribute to the long tradition of boating in the New Haven harbor with plaques relating the history of the former Yale boathouse, Yale rowing and the harbor, Plante said.

The Adee boathouse served as a commercial space from the 1950s until 2007, when it was torn down to make way for the $2.2 billion expansion of the Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge on I-95, set to be completed in 2016.

Comments

  • blahso

    Seems a needless 30 million dollar expense when even the university rowing teams have no interest in the facility.