Long Wharf Businesses Applaud New Plan for Access During Renovation

Long Wharf businesspeople listen to a new plan to give delivery trucks and customers access during the wharf's upcoming renovation. Peter Boody photo

Long Wharf businesspeople applauded a new plan that Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy and project engineer Jenny Lund presented to them on Tuesday that will allow trucks to make deliveries and customers to park on the south end of Long Wharf while it is being renovated beginning in September.

The original renovation plan, first publicized last month in The Express, had some business owners crying foul because it would have blocked off the entire wharf to the public, with a cyclone fence along Bay Street except for a five-foot pedestrian entry to the sidewalk serving the storefronts on the east side of the area.

“I’m fully in support of this new revision” of the access plan, said real estate broker Simon Harrison. After he thanked the mayor and Ms. Lund, the 12 other businesspeople who attended the presentation in the Municipal Building meeting room broke into applause.

The new plan puts the cyclone fence north of the grassy traffic island that divides the south end of the wharf into two lanes of traffic. It leaves access to at least 21 and as many as 28 parking spaces, depending on how the cyclone fence is positioned as it approaches the John A. Ward Memorial Windmill during the renovation project.

It also provides an area where delivery trucks can be pulled up to the east curb. Because of the narrow passage between the cyclone fence blocking off the rest of the wharf and the north end of the traffic island, trucks will probably have to make three-point turns to pass through.

All access will still have to be a cut off for one or two days in late September or early October, Mayor Mulcahy warned, when the contractor grinds up or mills all the asphalt on Long Wharf, including the area where customer parking and delivery access will still be allowed. That will happen on or around September 23, Ms. Lund said.

The renovation plan calls for resurfacing the entire facility but only after drainage, utilities and other infrastructural improvements are made. Meanwhile, the surface will be left rough and unpaved, just like what drivers find in the enclosed KeySpan lot that is leased by the village for long-term parking on the west side of the post office.

“This is so much more comforting” than previous plans, Mr. Harrison said, calling the new option “really positive.” He went on to ask about the possibility that historical or architectural evidence — maybe even train tracks or an old locomotive — might be found in the wharf after the pavement is removed and engineers begin digging into the fill that forms its base.

Mayor Kathleen Mulcahy, left, with Jenny Lund at Tuesday’s meeting. Peter Boody photo

Ms. Lund acknowledged that there once were train tracks on the wharf and that locomotives did come and go. She doubted one was buried in the wharf, however.

“I’m guessing train tracks or the old wood base for tracks” might be found, she said, explaining that archeological and historical artifacts could result in project delays. If they are found, “We don’t know if it would be for two weeks or less or five months or more,” she added.

Such problems are unlikely on the south end of the wharf, where the businesses are located, because it has been repeatedly disturbed and excavated over the years and should contain no surprises, she said.

“I want to make it clear. This, I think, is the best option” for delivery and customer access of the three alternatives she has discussed with the business group, Mayor Mulcahy said.

Referred to as “option three,” the new plan follows two previous ideas that the group discussed with the mayor last week.

The first would have provided no customer parking but would have kept a gate open to allow truck deliveries, one at a time. Flagmen, who would be provided by Chesterfield Associates, the contractor, would have been on hand to guide them.

The second option, a counter proposal from the business group, called for cutting a passage through the middle of the traffic island and fencing off the area to the north of it, providing access to four spaces for customer parking and two-and-a-half spaces for deliveries.

The mayor has said work should begin on the wharf renovation soon after the end of HarborFest, the Chamber of Commerce event set to take place on Long Wharf the weekend of September 7 and 8.  The project should be completed in June if the winter is mild. A harsh winter could delay its reopening significantly, the mayor has said.

The $4.32-million plan calls for new, backfilled steel sheeting around the perimeter of the wharf, extending it 18 inches in length and width; new pavement; an eight-foot-wide tropical hardwood pedestrian boardwalk around the perimeter, with a wider deck area at the north end; edge fencing; benches all around the perimeter; Dark Sky-compliant lighting; and a waste and sediment collection system that will filter runoff before it reaches the bay.