Sunday, June 07, 2009

Leland Harbor: Four Days Til Wine Fest

And it's raining at Leland Harbor. The parking lot must be graded and paved in order to host the Leland Wine Fest on June 11, and they were still pouring curbs and gutters late last week.

This drama is as good as any reality TV series. At our last Town Board meeting we decided to extend the completion deadline to:
  • Parking Lot Paved -- June 11
  • Operational Gas Dock -- June 26
  • Building Substantial Completion -- July 10
We could have refused to grant any extensions and collected penalties and fees from the contractor, but having the harbor open, even provisionally, is worth more to us.

The docks have been in use already, almost from the moment they hit the water. Even over Memorial Day, when they were just floating in the harbor, unattached to land, there was a sailboat that spent the holiday on their own little island out there. As Anna and I left on Sunday, we saw some power boaters pull into a slip, tie up, and walk over the "Dock Closed" sign on their way to shore.

Our mission Sunday was to photograph the north side of the building, which is now almost completely covered with the grey shakes that were chosen to mirror the look of the vintage buildings of Fishtown. I have to look past the construction equipment and imagine the front porch, but I can see the building eventually feeling like an extension of Fishtown.

Even before I was elected I heard a lot of opinions about the size and style of the harbor building. I talked to people who came late to the process complaining that the building would be too big and tall. I talked to the Harbor Commission members who had put the design together based on the input from public hearings and the constraints of the site and the funding process. I went from being skeptical of the design to being a big fan. But I was also struck by the way the the people who came in late to criticize the design were talking to only each other. I had always thought of a public hearing as a mechanism for the public to make their views known to the powers that be. Now I see the public hearing as a useful forum for the various stakeholders to hear each other and figure out how to compromise. The harbor building had to accommodate the boaters' needs, the classic Fishtown architecture advocates, the pedestrian traffic, the playground crowd, and myriad state and federal agencies. Nobody was getting everything that they wanted, but the Harbor Commission did try to come up with a design that was responsive to all concerns.

Right now it takes a lot of imagination to erase the construction equipment, the tool trailers, , the piles of dirt. You have to visualize the grey shakes darkening in a few seasons. The seagulls are already depositing their own patina on the red roof. One day the flag pole will be up again, the noisy machines will be gone, and we will be standing in the harbor with seagulls flying through a stiff west wind, watching a small boat entering safe harbor, and all will be well.

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