In an effort to get the public’s input on a new concession building, the Magens Bay Authority held a public scoping meeting at the beach on Saturday morning.
About 25 community members attended the meeting to learn more about the status of the project and to hear about potential plans for the structure from Jaredian Design Group, the architecture firm selected to design the building.
Katina Coulianos, chairperson of the authority board, opened the meeting by telling attendees a new concession has long been under discussion as a way to improve its operation and quality, as well as the view of the beach when visitors first arrive. The current building obscures the ocean view at the beach’s entrance.
Other goals of the project include increasing the building’s square footage by 25 to 35 percent, creating four vendor stalls in addition to retail boutique space and putting in two unisex bathrooms, so visitors no longer have to walk to the closest bathhouses when they are patronizing the restaurant or bar.
As the project is currently in phase one, the board is weighing whether to renovate the existing structure or to build a new one closer to bathhouse number two. That decision ultimately falls on the board after it considers public input and reviews impact surveys with Jaredian.
John Woods, design principal with Jaredian, said that the cost of renovating the existing structure is similar to constructing a new one, including the cost of demolishing the old concession. The project will cost about $2.5 million, with renovating being about $50,000 less expensive.
As a part of the decision-making process, Jaredian has conducted three surveys, including measured drawings of the existing structure, a hazardous material survey and a cultural resources study of the area.
Through surveying the current building, Jaredian found that its core is still structurally sound and does not contain any harmful material such as asbestos, making a renovation possible. But, as one attendee pointed out, the building would still block the ocean view at the entrance.
Pre-Columbian era artifacts, including tools made of shells and coral, were found in the area between the current concession building and bathhouse two, so Jaredian will be undertaking a second site survey to determine if the site contains more artifacts.
If more tools are discovered during the second survey, Woods said a third cultural resource survey would be conducted to find out if the site was potentially a Pre-Columbian settlement area.
Building the new structure would require the authority to pull a major Coastal Zone Management (CZM) permit, since the concession is on the beach and has the potential to affect the marine environment.
According to Woods, renovating or building new would likely have the same impact on the environment. He said phasing could be an issue with renovating, since the old concession would still need to operate while work is being done.
Woods and the Authority’s board members fielded questions about the vendor spaces, the restaurant and project timing.
In response to an inquiry about how vendors would be selected, board member Dayle Barry said the authority is seeking recommendations on this issue, but it could include a lottery or rotation system.
Another attendee asked about the structure and length of contracts for operating the restaurant. Because the future operator of the restaurant would have to build out the kitchen space, as the authority will only provide the shell, it would be granted a long-term contract to make the investment worthwhile.
Woods said the second public scoping meeting will likely take place before the end of January, since the board aims to have the structure’s design completed in the next 30 to 45 days in order to submit the application for the CZM permit in February.
“We’re doing this as a public process to build consensus around the new concession, since Magens Bay is for the people and it’s the type of site that warrants seeking this level of input,” Woods said.
Soolan Brin, a St. Thomas resident who attended the meeting, said, “Magens Bay is one of the best beaches in the world, so we need to make sure we have a concession that compliments it.”