June 1, 2023
The Tuck’s Point Rotunda
By Gregory T. Federspiel
The iconic Rotunda at Tuck’s Point needs major rehabilitation. The existing supporting pilings are at the end of their useful life and need to be replaced. As part of replacing these supports that hold the Rotunda up over the water, the Rotunda and the pier leading to it need to be raised up some 4.5 feet per FEMA/Army Corp regulations. The higher elevation is needed to better protect the structures from bigger storm surges and sea level rise for the next fifty years.
Our consulting engineers have developed four different alternatives for the project. With each alternative, timber pilings and steel pilings were considered. Longer life span for steel make them the preferred choice. The first alternative is to use the existing footprint and raise the structures up to an elevation 19’ NAVD88 (from the current 14.6’ NAVD88) in the same place they are today. This will require moving the Rotunda at least a couple of times. The estimated cost of Alternative 1B is $2.24 million.
Alternative 2 proposes to extend the pier and have the Rotunda further out over the water. Now that the adjacent floats have been moved further out already, there is room to have the Rotunda further out as well. One advantage of this approach is the rotunda itself could remain where it is and moved once onto the newly installed supports. Again, the pier and Rotunda would be raised up about 4.5 feet. Extending out a bit further also improves the view out of the harbor from the Rotunda. The cost of this option is estimated to be $2.50 million.
Alternative 3 calls for relocating the rotunda onto land. Just to the left of the walkway as you face the Rounda is an existing picnic knoll. The Rotunda could be placed here, also at the same elevation as proposed by the on-water alternatives – 19’ NAVD88. The pier would remain and raised to 19”NAVD88. Bringing the Rotunda landward provides additional protection to the structure during a major storm. But the inland location gives up the views and other aesthetic qualities of the Rotunda out over the water. The estimated cost of this third alternative is about $1.75 million.
The fourth alternative is to do the first alternative in two stages – replace the pier and Rotunda within the existing footprint but elevate it in two phases. Phase 1 would increase the elevation some 2.5 feet to 17’ NAVD88 and then, about 25 years later, raise everything again to 19’NAVD88. The cost of Phase 1 is roughly $2.16 million. The cost of Phase 11 some 25 years out is estimated to be another $3.64 million.
Tuck’s Point is one of the Town’s most scenic spots. The Rotunda says “Manchester” perhaps just as much as Singing Beach – more so for some. Preserving the Rotunda is not a vote I would expect to be close. But we do need to make decisions about what alternative is best going forward. The over-water locations will be much preferred, but they are more vulnerable to storm damage. Giving up the on-water location feels like a betrayal to the Town’s heritage and underscores how hard adapting to sea level rise will be.
In addition to deciding on the location for a rebuilt Rotunda, how to fund the project also needs to be answered. We received state support to help pay for the engineering work done to date. We are in a good position to apply for construction funds as well (up to $1.0 million). One option for funding the remainder is to consider increasing the Community Preservation tax surcharge. Currently it is at 1.5%. Going to 3% would generate enough funds to bond for the Rotunda project as well as for the reconstruction of Sweeney Park, another large project on the horizon. By raising the surcharge to 3% we also become eligible for additional state CPC funding.
The Select Board will host the first public forum on the Rotunda project at their meeting coming up on Tuesday, June 20. The Board invites your input.