There was a long-awaited celebration for Fairfield residents last Tuesday as a ribbon cutting was held at the official opening of the popular Penfield Pavilion on Penfield Beach. The newly renovated structure has been closed since Oct. 29, 2012, when Hurricane Sandy devastated Fairfield’s coastline.
The hurricane, known as “Super Storm Sandy,” devastated the Pavilion, which was only months past a completed renovation in 2011.
Although compromised, the Pavilion was deemed “salvageable” after an engineering firm presented an assessment during a town meeting. The Board of Selectmen formed a sizeable building committee in 2013 to analyze facts, damage, options, recommendations and a course of action. The newly constructed state of the art Penfield Pavilion sits atop its former footprint and rests on timber pilings that have been driven down to their “submission level” of approximately 25-30 feet, providing maximum staying power. It boasts a 1500 square foot deck, a 2600 s/f gathering room (44’x60’) a warming kitchen, corridor, restrooms, lobby area, outdoor showers, lifeguard station and the always popular concession stand, totaling approximately 20,000 square feet of space.
First Selectman Mike Tetreau thanked the packed house for attending, He thanked “Jim Bradley and the entire building committee who were just superb and what a great example to how volunteers can come together and take not only something that was very controversial but take something that involved a lot of different opinions. There was a song back in the 70’s that I remember from my youth, they talked about a long and winding road – that certainly would be an appropriate theme song for how we got here.”
A complete renovation was finished on Jan. 26 this year, ahead of schedule, at a cost of approximately $7.3 million ($200,000 under budget). The town is seeking promised reimbursement grants of approximately $3M (total) from FEMA and the State of Connecticut which were sought with the aid of a FEMA application specialist and the State Legislature and Congressional delegations. The Town of Fairfield worked to comply with FEMA guidelines in an effort to receive up to the maximum of a 75 percent cost-sharing level from the agency. At this time revenue sources total $1,750,000 via insurance and $2.5M via a municipal bond. The Town had a $500,000 deductible on its insurance policy.
“Moving forward this is a wonderful opportunity for the town to take stock of a beautiful property that is a gateway to represent everywhere else in this region of what Fairfield and summertime is all about,” said State Senator Tony Hwang. “I am so grateful for the beach community for being very patient neighbors for a property that has lain dormant and is inconsistent with the care and pride and beauty of the beach neighborhoods, so it really is an exciting day as we look to the future of summer in Fairfield. We now again have a location that residents and people within Fairfield County can look at as a source of pride.”
Jim Bradley, Building Committee chairman, said, “I’m here representing the Penfield Building Committee who has got to be one of the most dedicated and patient building committees ever in this town and I can’t miss this chance to thank them. Our staying together and overcoming one problem after another is what made it a success. We had 70 meetings over three years. Thanks to an outstanding group of citizen volunteers, something that makes Fairfield the great town that it is.”
“As a building committee we wanted to prove that this complicated and politically high profile project could be done right and could be delivered on time and on budget. Most importantly we were determined to manage an open and transparent process encouraging and incorporating public input. Mike – as our First Selectman, leader, coach, guide – thank you for getting us through more than one obstacle.”
Bradley thanked Department of Public Works’ Joe Michelangelo, Bob Mayer of Finance, Tom Flynn and the Board of Finance, Tom Conley, Jim Wendt, William Kessler, Fire Marshal, Town Engineering, Parks & Rec, Conservation, the RTM, engineers DeStefano & Chamberlain, Construction Manager Shawmut Design and Construction, Colliers International Project Management Oversight, DeStefano & Sullivan Architectural Firm and more. “People are very excited about this whole facility coming back better than what we started with.”
“The Fire Marshal and Building Department are extremely happy that this project came in as designed and on time and under budget so we’re very pleased,” said Tom Conley, Chief Building Official. “We finally have a building that the public can use and our building committee is very happy with.”
The waterfront Penfield Pavilion is now open year-round, offering spectacular panoramic views overlooking Long Island Sound, and featuring a new banquet room, commercial warming kitchen and state of the art amenities. The facility holds seating for up to 175 indoors and an additional 50 outdoors on the deck. Anthony Calabrese, Director of Parks and Recreation said, “Wow, it’s been a long time in the making but we did it. Our Pavilion is back and it’s better than ever.”