CAMBRIDGE — On Monday night, at an open council meeting, a team from the firm of Morris & Ritchie laid out the plans for the promenade at Sailwinds Park. Their vision is a Choptank riverwalk — a 40 foot promenade that is wide, tree-lined, with benches, and planters and beautiful streetlights. For you and me, for strolling, for sitting, for watching boats, birds, and sunsets and maybe see a large boat tie up to the bollards and cleats.
But don’t pack a picnic basket yet; the riverwalk is still in the planning stages, a year or more away. Permits will be sought in the next nine months, then the bidding process begins, and construction next spring. Funded by grant money, Sean Davis of Morris & Ritchie says planters of chokeberries and pepper bushes have been selected for year-round color and texture and indigenous trees will provide shade.
The entire promenade will set the stage for development, and no, the development issue has not been settled yet. When Cambridge acquired the “Sailwinds” property from the state, it came along with the developer of record at the time, the Jerome J. Parks Companies of Annapolis. The contract with the Parks Companies ran out at the end of 2014, with no final design being submitted by Parks, and as a result the development of the overall property is still up in the air.
The proposed promenade is a 40-foot wide new walkway that will replace the deck of the wharf, at Sailwinds. Kenneth Usab, the professional engineer of the firm reported on the pilings and pavers on the existing wharf. Some pilings are in good shape and reusable, though sheeting is failing and in need of repairs. What was once the deck of the tuna factory will have a precast deck and paving on top.
The engineer also played a video of the underwater examination of the structures and it was clear (to him) there was no documentable damage, as the diver pounded a hammer on concrete underwater forms. Mr. Usab says newer alloys and advances in corrosion protection will extend the life of what they replace or reuse.
Several conflicts arose when the public came to the microphone. Speakers say the developer or developers should not tell Cambridge what they want to do. What developers want is to make money, and instead, Cambridge should dictate what it needs. Another source of dissension is Governor’s Hall. The historic building draws people for events and brings in money to the city coffers, according to the director. Efforts should be made to preserve it. But its future is still uncertain. It may not withstand this progress and will have to be relocated.
The waterfront development project encompasses far more than the promenade. A connection to the east that reaches the Hyatt is discussed, to the west, a better connection between Long Wharf and Great Marsh. Other ideas are entering the discussion, hotels, housing, a boat-building school, cafes, and so much more. The promenade will set the stage for the ideas that become the final project of Cambridge’s extensive and unique waterfront.