September 8, 2023
Rotunda Forum set for September 14
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The third public forum on the needed repairs to the Rotunda at Tuck’s Point is set for Thursday, September 14 starting at 7PM at Town Hall and via Zoom. Three options (down from 4) will be reviewed, and new 3-dimensional modeling of the options will be presented to help to visualize the appearance of each alternative.
Four options were on the table but the option to extend the pier and place the Rotunda further out toward the channel has been dropped due to permitting challenges. Building within the existing footprint or placing the Rotunda on land present easier and quicker permitting paths. With the project being time sensitive given the deteriorating conditions, any delays should be avoided.
The options to be presented on the 14th are:
- Rebuild the pier in its current location but raise everything up about 5 feet to 19 feet MLW to better protect the pier and Rotunda from bigger storm surges and rising sea levels. Estimated Cost of $2.25 million.
- Rebuild the pier with a new viewing deck at the end all at a raised elevation of 19’ MLW and relocate the Rotunda to the picnic knoll just to the north of the entrance to the existing pier. Estimated cost of $1.75 million.
- Rebuild the pier in its current location but raise everything up in two phases – initially to 17’ MLW and then, assuming necessary, to 19’ MLW in about 25 years from now. Estimated cost of $5.75 million for both phases (Phase 1 at $2.16 million and Phase 2 25 years later at $3.59 million- escalated for assumed inflation)
The Rotunda was originally built in 1896. At the time, the Chowder House was located at the water’s edge and the Yacht Club had just built its facility, blocking the Chowder House’s view to open water. The harbor at the time was mostly a large mud flat at low tide. The pier and Rotunda were built to reclaim the view beyond the Yacht Club.
With the understructure of the pier in poor condition, a rebuild is needed. New steel pilings will replace the rotting wooden ones and a new steel frame for the pier is proposed. The steel framing will be hidden by wood trim thus the look will be very similar to what is there today. Of course, raising the pier and the Rotunda up 5 feet will alter the appearance but as the modeling shows, this only becomes evident at low tide. On the plus side, using steel means fewer pilings are needed as the spans can be longer. Going up to 19’ either directly or in 2 phases is a permitting requirement based on sea level rise projections.
Most comments to date have favored the first option – raising the structures up in their current location to the 19’MLW elevation. Some advocate relocating the Rotunda itself to land to better protect the historic structure from storm damage. Giving up the on-water location of the Rotunda is not an easy sell even if a viewing deck replaces the Rotunda.
The Select Board needs to decide which option should be advanced to final design and permitting soon. After taking additional public comment on the 14th, the Board plans on making a final decision at their meeting on September 18. This will keep the project moving forward. Once plans are finalized and permitting underway the Town will apply for grant funding to pay for the work. Given that we have received grant funding for the current design work we are optimistic that grant funds for construction will be secured. The goal is to have the reconstruction work done next year in the fall and into the winter of 2025. This means the rehabilitated pier and Rotunda should be ready for the 2025 season.