HARWICH — The landside plans for redeveloping Saquatucket Harbor is rapidly taking shape. With the architectural design work almost 75 percent complete, the Saquatucket development committee will be bring the project before the board selectmen next week.
The landside project, which incorporates the 5.2 acre town-owned harbor site and the newly acquired 2.2- acre former Downey property, will provide additional parking and several new structures housing the harbormaster's office, cafe, ticket booth building and harbor department workshop. There will also be six artisan shacks for lease along expanded green space behind the new harbormaster's office.
“The main objectives of the plan are to improve the safety of pedestrian access, improve the efficiency of harbor operations, and enhance the character, beauty and attractiveness of the harbor for boaters and non-boaters alike for many years to come,” Harbormaster John Rendon said.
There have been three design meetings, he said, including a session with the town's community development group. Town meeting last May approved $250,000 for engineering, design and permitting for the project, and the town also received a $187,500 Massachusetts Coastal Zone Management grant to assist with the designs.
The town selected Brown Lindquist Fenuccio & Raber Architects of Yarmouth to do the design. Architect Tim Sawyer is the project architect. While the town's capital plan has had a $3 million placeholder for the project over the past couple of years, Rendon said once the town accepts the draft plan, the architects will submit that plan to an estimator for a more accurate assessment of the total project cost. Voters will be asked to approve the funds in the May town meeting; it is expected there will also be a debt exclusion question for the funding on the May election ballot.
The project calls for a new harbormaster's office, replacing the structure built in 1969 as a small shanty on a slab of concrete and later expanded to the rear with the addition of a shed, Rendon said. The entire building is poorly insulated and the electrical system has been put together piecemeal over time and is not up to code. The space is not adequate for harbor and natural resources departments staff, he said.
The new harbormaster's office will be 2,700 square feet and will include bathrooms for boaters and separate bathrooms for public use. There will also be a conference room on the first floor. The harbormaster and natural resources offices will be located on a second floor.
A cafe is proposed just to the west of the harbormaster's office and will consist of 2,400 square feet, and interior and exterior dining space will include 60 seats. That facility will be leased and will provide waterfront dining on the knoll overlooking the marina. The cafe is expected to provide daytime service and would not remain open at night. Whether it is operated year-round is a decision that will be made by the lessee, Rendon said.
There will be expanded green space behind the harbormaster's shop where six artisan shacks will be located, which the town also plans to lease. The shacks and the green space will be connected to a new pedestrian path that will lead from the former Downey property along the edge of the green space to a harbor overlook between the cafe and harbormaster's office. There will also be steps leading down to a pedestrian boardwalk that will run along the edge of the harbor bulkhead.
The Downey property along Route 28 will provide 80 new parking spaces and a 1,000-square-foot ticket booth building on the west side of the property. The booth is where tickets will be sold for the Freedom Ferry, which runs to Nantucket, and the three commercial boats operating out of the harbor offering fishing and seal watching.
“What we're trying to achieve is the whole operation being located on the south side of Route 28 with pedestrian movement out of the way of vehicles,” Rendon said.
Currently there are separate ticket booths that require people to meander through the parking lot, and in one case cross Route 28 to access tickets. Rendon also said the town has asked the Massachusetts Department of Transportation to extend a sidewalk from Harwich Port to Saquatucket Harbor.
Where the plan has changed from earlier designs is a separation of the ticket booth from the harbor department workshop. The latest plan is to locate a 2,300-square-foot workshop to the east side of the new parking lot. The building will have a two-bay garage for patrol boat maintenance and a location for one of the department's vehicle. The building will be one story with stairs to a mezzanine that will hold bathrooms and a small area for a desk.
“It's exciting, a real nice plan,” Rendon said. “It's been pretty well received so far, but we've got to get it out to the public.”
Rendon also said the plan will go a long way to achieving the town's “stated goals of upgrading and modernizing harbor facilities, maximizing economic and recreation opportunities, and increasing accessibility while protecting the area's environment, neighborhood character and maritime history.”
A portion of the cost of the project will be offset through leasing of the cafe, artisan shacks, the ticket booths and providing winter boat storage, he added.