revitalization project

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  • 26 February 2015 / The South Coast Insider

    COVER STORY

    What was once a vibrant beach now has little sand. A once-proud amusement park sees little to promote to out-of-towners. The old Bluffs building, once a bustle of activity that included a dance hall, bowling alley, and a senior center, is long condemned, and could collapse at any moment.

    The town has debated the future of arguably its most prized, yet buried asset for many, many years. Is the location even fixable? With finances struggling, do residents even want to fund anything at the site? Can anyone, besides maybe the few that lived through the beachs heyday, envision a future for the waterfront site?

    Faced with these questions, the town has trudged forward, never giving up on bringing back what was a water-front dream for many.

    Last year, in the first step towards what could be a bright future for the Swansea Town Beach and the adja-cent neighborhood, Fairhaven-based Stephen Kelleher Architects, Inc. was charged with doing a master plan of the existing town beach property.

    Finally, a concrete plan was in place and some of the parts were moving ahead. Kellehers group compiled a team to put together a plan for the site that included the necessary dem-olition of the existing building, the design of a new facility that officials hope will bring back the splendor of

    yesteryear, and the rejuvenation of a beach that residents last saw more than a decade ago.

    The plan for the beach re-nour-ishment, according to Kelleher, is to dredge the channel at the Cole River to replace the sand that Mount Hope Bay has unceremoniously taken from the Swansea beach. Permitting and plans are underway with CLE Engineering of Marion as the lead for that portion of Kellehers team.

    For the new building plans, they will include not only a new, railroad-style building but also new boardwalks and a shade shelter with a raised parking lot for up to 175 cars that will improve the sight-lines for the stunning sun-sets and vistas not viewable from the

    BY JaY Pateakos

    Exterior 3D model shot of the Swansea Beach

    Pavilion.

    How a town is bringing its waterfront back to life

    swansea BeachRevitalization PRoject

    Driving down Ocean Grove Avenue along the Swansea town beach area is like stepping into a Twilight Zone episode.

    JTuckerText Box
  • 27The South Coast Insider / February 2015

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    current sunken lots.There will also be a new playground

    built on the site with a slide down to the beach and new landscaping throughout the 9-acre site that will be provided by Landscape Architects, Dodson and Flinker. The new building, with a classic train station motif that brings the area back to the days of the late 1800s and early 1900s when the site was once a stop along the East Providence to Fall River rail, will include a 300-seat, 6,000-square-foot pavilion with a stage that could be used for special events and weddings with great views down the length of Mount Hope Bay.

    A new concession stand is also planned with inside and outside seat-ing, as well as new bathroom facilities,

    lifeguard stations, outdoor showers and foot rinses, and more.

    Kelleher said the dredging aims to replenish a half a mile of beach, some-thing that was approved at the most recent Swansea Special Town Meeting to the tune of $1.15 million $820,000 for the dredging and the rest for proj-ect permitting and design work, is a long time coming.

    Next up (likely at the 2015 Fall Town Meeting, though theres some hope that it can be ready for the Spring Town Meeting) is the question of the $4.8 million in funding that will take

    the plan through the final construc-tion, including buildings and board-walks. Kelleher said they are hoping to have the entire project done by June 1st, 2016 if all goes according to plan.

    This basically gets this beach back to the days of the 1920s and 1930s before the Hurricane of 1938 wiped it out, said Kelleher, who knows a thing or two about revitalizing beaches with his companys work on bringing Horseneck Beach back from the brink of forty years of decay in 2008, a $5 million dollar project that included new bathhouses, a central facility, new boardwalks, and shade shelters. We want to make the Swansea Town Beach one of the premier beaches of the South Coast.

    Chris Sampson, a member of the

    Swanseas Waterfront Revitalization Committee said as part of the Coastal Zone Management two year plan, the beach will not only get renourished, but a jetty or groyne will also be stud-ied for the beach that may allow the newly-dredged sand to be stabilized on the beach and to stay where it is in-stead of journeying out to sea like its done for more than a decade.

    Lets get the dredging going, apply for the permits needed and give the people back the beach again. Right

    We want to make the swansea town Beach one of the premier beaches

    of the south Coast.

    Continued on neXt PAGe

    Rendering of Swansea Beach pier.

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  • 28 February 2015 / The South Coast Insider

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    now the beach goes out about five feet but this will bring it out about 50 feet, said Sampson. That would pro-vide a half a mile of useable beach. This will bring back new attention to the beach and create economic devel-opment by helping to create activity down there for all four seasons.

    Board of Selectmen Chairman Kenneth Furtado, who also chairs the Waterfront Revitalization Committee, said he hopes to see some funding assistance from both the state and federal government for all the work that will be done on and around the public beach.

    He said his hope is that a portion of the initial approval of $1.15 million will see some funding come from the federal and state governments. When the town last dredged to replenish the beach back in 1999, the town saw the feds contribute 50 percent and the state 25 percent of the final price tag.

    Furtado said hes heard that federal funds may be available but the states assistance is murkier. The second part of the project, which totals $4.8 million, includes $1.6 million for demo-lition of the existing building and new elevation of the parking lot up about 2

    feet along with new boardwalks. The remaining $2.7 million is for the con-struction of the buildings, open shade area and childrens playground, land-scaping, and other amenities.

    It was not clear yet what kind of as-sistance the town could get for that phase.

    Furtado said the Waterfront Revitalization Committee has been meeting for more than two years now, and have conducted dozens of hours of research into other seaside commu-nities like Swansea, noting what these communities have and what worked there and what didnt.

    The research only made us realize more what a gem we have here, said Furtado, that long stretches of beach like we have dont occur in Southeastern Massachusetts and to not take action here would be a crime.

    Furtado said the problem, mostly

    We need to promote our assets, bring more people to town and give them a better experience when they do come here.

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  • 29The South Coast Insider / February 2015

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    because that part of town has been on life support for so many years now, is that many residents dont consider the town to be a beachfront commu-nity at all, something that needs to change, along with the perceptions of people traveling through Swansea, who dont think of Swansea when it comes to beautiful waterfronts or beaches.

    We need to promote our assets, bring more people to town and give them a better experience when

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