Updated 1:40 pm
The Steamship Authority board approved a one-story terminal building for Woods Hole and a two-story utility building, a compromise more than a year in the making.
The unanimous vote was taken during Tuesday morning’s meeting at Steamship Authority headquarters in Falmouth to authorize BIA.studio to finalize the architectural drawings and seek permits for the building.
“After further consideration and discussion, the authority’s architects, with the staff’s guidance and input, developed a new conceptual one-story terminal building design situated within the footprint of the previous terminal building design, along with an increase to the size of the two-story utility building situated in the location of the current freight shed building,” SSA general manager Robert Davis told the board. “The new two-story utility building includes several of the program space requirements that were previously situated on the upper stories of the terminal building’s previous designs.”
The plaza footprint remains the same, Davis said. Pickup and dropoff areas are to the east of the terminal building. “Being only one story, we’re hoping that will open up additional views of the harbor,” he said.
The new design also incorporates solar panels on the roof of the building, as well as the bus depot, which Davis said could generate about 50 percent of the terminal’s electrical needs.
The concept won the support of the Port Council, George Balco, chairman of that advisory board, said earlier in the meeting.
The design meets the concerns of the neighbors, while maintaining operational needs of the SSA, Davis said. The building will include a passenger lobby, ticketing area, and restrooms.
The utility building is a V-shaped building that incorporates storage, staff locker rooms, and other staff space, he said.
“It’s hard to make a shoebox pretty. I’m sure our designers will accomplish that,” chair Robert Jones said.
The details can be worked out, and the feedback has been positive, Kathryn Wilson, Falmouth’s representative, said. She encouraged the SSA to continue meeting with local stakeholders.
“I think the concept is terrific,” she said.
The changes come at a price. Davis said the change orders with the architects are $750,000 more (for drawings and new schematic designs for the one-story building), and the two buildings will cost about $3 million more, mostly to make the utility building “habitable,” Davis said. The most expensive of the original designs was estimated at $22.3 million.
Construction will take three to four years, Chris Iwerks, a principal with BIA.studio, said.
Moira Tierney, New Bedford’s representative on the board, said the SSA should get some credit. “I think it would be nice if we got some recognition for the fact that we spent a lot of money hearing and implementing the requests,” she said.
When the SSA unveiled three schematic drawings in October 2018, the pushback was immediate from Woods Hole residents, saying it would block the view of Great Harbor, and the design was not in keeping with the village.
“It was clear from the public comments we received, and the comments the members received, that they were unhappy with the previous design options,” Davis said of Woods Hole residents.
Since then, Woods Hole residents have launched online petitions, got state legislators chiming in, and held a contentious meeting in Falmouth last June where residents felt the board wasn’t interested in listening.
“Is Falmouth happy?” Jones asked Wilson prior to the vote.
“Yes,” Wilson said.
But that may not be entirely true. Nathaniel Trumbull, a Woods Hole resident who helped lead a petition drive, wrote in an email, “It is baffling to all of us how the Steamship Authority is proceeding once again down the same path as four years ago without organizing a single opportunity for Cape and Islands residents to provide input on the new building. The Steamship Authority has yet to organize a workshop or any other public venue for soliciting residents’ input into its new building concept.”
With a bit of irony, Trumbull pointed out that Iwerks of BIA.studios was quoted as an opponent to a project in his neighborhood.
“We read with interest how SSA-hired architect Chris Iwerks was quoted in the Boston Globe yesterday as a longtime Davis Square resident and about his concerns over the nature of new development in his neighborhood,” Trumbull wrote. “But when it comes to our neighborhood in Woods Hole, Mr. Iwerks has expressed zero interest in meeting with residents about our concerns.”
There is still a chance that the terminal building could go back to a two-story design. Davis asked for and received the board’s permission to go back to the two-story gable roof design “should the one-story design concept and two-story utility building concept be found to be unacceptable by any of the relevant permitting agencies.”
SSA now has a mission
The board also adopted a revised mission statement, a key recommendation by HMS Consulting, the independent company brought in after a series of ferry failures in the spring of 2018.
After public hearings, including one on the Vineyard last month, the SSA finalized its mission statement as: “Our mission is to operate a safe, efficient, and reliable transportation system for the islands of Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket with a commitment to sustainability, accessibility, our port communities, and public engagement.”
The board approved that sentence unanimously, though it took some time to get there, with board members suggesting some slight tweaks.
Tierney questioned why the phrase “lifeline” was left out, which spokesman Sean Driscoll, the SSA spokesman and pointman on the mission statement process, said was a conscious decision.
“I was hesitant to use something we’ve used as a marketing tool in our strategic planning,” he said.
Now that the mission statement is approved, it will act as a foundation in that strategic planning process, Driscoll said.
In other business, mark your calendars, Vineyarders, the Headstart reservation program for the Vineyard will be Jan. 7 to Jan. 13. General reservations for the Vineyard will open Jan. 21. For the second year in a row, the reservation periods will be on different weeks for the two islands, Davis said. Nantucket’s early reservations are a week later.
Updated with more details from meeting, and with a quote from a Woods Hole resident. –Ed