Saving the Solviken propertyBuilding demolition to begin soon
Justin Lewis, chair for the campaign to raise funds for the Solviken property, calls those heavily vested in the project the “water community” — lovers of the surf, the ocean views to the east and the Harbor Pond to the west.
At the beginning of this year, two local conservation groups reached a goal to raise $700,000 to save the Solviken property on Corn Neck Road, just north of the Beachead Restaurant.
While the groups have plans to keep the land and parking lot open for the public, its abandoned building will be demolished soon.
“Our intent all along, as we made clear, was that the building be torn down,” said Block Island Conservancy President Stephen Record. “It had been condemned, and was in pretty dreadful condition. We constructed the project around the assumption that the building would be eliminated.”
Lewis added that part of the goal of this project was to avoid construction on the property.
Town Building Official Marc Tillson said that a demolition order has been requested by the Land Trust. He expects the building to come down within the next few weeks. He also noted that proper demolition procedures, such as removing hazardous material and lead paint, will be followed.
The land contains a parking lot popular with surfers and a decaying building, formerly used as an inn. Besides surfers, Lewis says that snorkelers and those enjoying beachside yoga have taken advantage of the spot. As a result, this particular fundraiser struck a chord with many people.
“There’s something in this project for everybody,” Lewis said. In comparison to other fundraisers, this project saw more donors of a younger generation, ages 25 to 40.
Lewis contrasted the project to a previous Block Island Conservancy effort to purchase Mitchell Farm. While Mitchell Farm received more “big money” donors ($10,000 to $30,000), the Solviken saw slightly smaller amounts ($1,000 to $5,000), but overall more donations.
The fundraiser received around $150,000 in in-kind donations. Over the summer, about 12 to 15 cocktail parties were hosted at restaurants and homes to raise money. A lot of publicity also came from word-of-mouth, said Lewis.
“It was a very public campaign,” he said. Manpower for fundraising efforts came in large part from those under 35. ConserFest events contributed $14,000 toward the Solviken purchase from Solviken Solution events, and stickers and T-shirts sold in the memory of Matt Helterline raised more than $10,000.
The entire Solviken property, which is split up into three lots, sold for $1.25 million.
The Land Trust and Block Island Conservancy bought one of the three lots on March 5, 2012. Neighboring property owners purchased the northernmost lot and gave the Land Trust and the BIC an easement over it.
The two conservation groups committed to raising the around $700,000 to purchase the third lot, which has the Solviken house on it. The purchase closed on November 29, and fundraising was completed by the end of 2012.
“I’d be hard-pressed not to stay involved with the project,” said Lewis. “I am excited to continue.”
The future of the property is still in the works. Record said that the BIC and the Land Trust met to begin discussions on what to do with the property. Though there was a “general agreement” over what the property’s future will be, but the details aren’t ready just yet. Record suggested, “paths to lead people from Corn Neck across the rise and over to the shore of Harbor Pond.” He also mentioned possibly small kiosks detailing the history of the land and how it was conserved.
But overall, Record said the goal is to “maintain what it has become, as a place for people to park and view surf and watch boats come in and out of the harbor.”