The Block Island Times

Beach pavilion: renovate or rebuild?

Council hears four design proposals
By Stephanie Turaj | Feb 10, 2013
Photo by: Kari Curtis The Town Beach Pavilion, as it is now. An option for proposed renovations and two options for rebuilding the pavilion would keep a exterior design. A fourth option would include a second floor with slanted roofs.

Town Recreation Director Robbie Closter delivered a lengthy PowerPoint presentation to the Town Council Wednesday, February 6, aggregating roughly two years of brainstorming on how to upgrade the Fred Benson Town Beach Pavilion.

Closter offered four proposals. He explained that the 23-year-old building has had minimal maintenance and is heavily used during the busy summer months.

The four choices, designed by Northeast Collaborative Architects, included renovating the existing building, the least expensive option. The other three choices, each more costly than the last, would mean demolishing the current structure and building a new one. The building’s current foundation, which is structurally sound according to Closter, would remain.

At least two council members, Norris Pike and Chris Warfel, appeared to prefer renovation over rebuilding.

“I think we’ve got some bigger fish to fry,” said Pike, suggesting that the town may have to provide more funds to the Medical Center soon.

Closter said that the renovations are a “short-term solution,” addressing immediate issues for less money, but in the future the council may have to again spend more money on similar problems.

The rough estimate for renovation was $281,586. It would maintain the current footprint as well as the current decks, but would double the number of showers and increase the number of bathrooms in both the men’s and women’s dressing areas by three. It would reorganize the layout, locating the storage rooms for the concession stand and beach rentals in a more convenient area. Currently, storage rooms are located in the changing areas.

The first rebuilding plan, Option A, would cost more than four times as much, an estimated $1.5 million. This plan would maintain the footprint of the building, but increase outdoor deck space. It doubles the number of showers and bathrooms, also reorganizes the interior and creates more doors for multiple access points to the building.

An open space in the middle of the building could be used for private functions — a possible income generator, suggested Closter. The design allowed for certain areas to be closed while others could remain open.

The last two options, B and C, were similar. Both would double the footprint, have large decks, complete with an area for a band, increased storage, increased indoor seating, and more interior space for venues. Option B would cost an estimated $2.1 million. Option C, the costliest of all, came in at $2.4 million, and would tack on a second floor viewing deck. The first few choices would keep a flat-roofed aesthetic similar to the current building, while the fourth design would have gabled roofs.

Closter also proposed to expand parking in front of the pavilion. Several councilors, including Sean McGarry, expressed interest in this.

John Cullen, who serves on the town’s Recreation Board and the Tourism Council, pointed out that the beach house impacts summer tourism. “When people have to wait 20 minutes to take a shower, that seems unreasonable and they go home,” he said. “At the very least… we have to increase the bathrooms and the showers.”

The Town Beach Pavilion is a source of income for the town — the town budgeted  for $92,000 in revenues this year.

Ultimately, the Town Council decided it would be best to weigh public opinion before making a decision.

The council also discussed pavilion repairs for damage wreaked by October’s Hurricane Sandy. Money is coming in to repair the roof and doors, along with other damage. The council agreed it would be best to have these repairs completed before the upcoming summer season, but also wondered if repairs would cover some aspects of Closter’s proposals.


The council discussed at length the town fee schedule, which sets rates for fees on everything from dock mooring, to beach driving, to use of Heinz Field. Several members expressed interest in raising some of the fees, but the council will readdress this topic at a future meeting.

Town Manager Nancy Dodge reported that the Ball O’Brien Park restroom and picnic shelter project will be put out to bid.

Town IT Contractor Michele Spero had a general discussion with the council about technology and any future projects the council would like to suggest.

The council ended its work session in executive session to discuss employee contracts.

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