Nearly $10 million International Pier overhaul starting to take shape

Heavy Construction is underway on Oswego's International Pier, seen above Thursday with the Oswego Lighthouse in background. At left in the photograph are new sheet metal pilings to stabilize the jetty for development. 

OSWEGO — The Port City’s stabilization and renovation of the International Pier started to take shape this week as construction crews installed metal sheet pilings around the perimeter of the landmass to combat erosion, and city officials said the former Oswego Yacht Club building would ultimately be demolished and rebuilt as part of the work.

The International Pier transformation is aimed at shoring up the structure, which due to high water and flooding in recent years is in a badly deteriorated condition, according to city leaders. The $9.5 million project will transform the jetty into what officials have called a “pedestrian-friendly boardwalk,” with funding from the state’s 2019 Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI) — a more than $300 million effort to harden shoreline infrastructure in response to severe flooding in 2017 and 2019.

Construction crews from Hannibal-based W.D. Malone Trucking and Excavating could be seen mobilizing at the pier starting in late April, but the project is now taking shape with sheet piling being installed on the northern end of the structure. The sheet piling installation represents the majority of the cost of the project, which will also include some rebuilding of the pier surface.

Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow has said the revamped pier could act as the centerpiece for the city’s waterfront, helping to draw people to the Port City and complementing the newly renovated Wright’s Landing Marina and improvements to Breitbeck Park. Barlow this week said the project would turn the pier into “a productive piece of public space for residents and boaters to enjoy.”

Barlow on Thursday called the pier work “a very complicated, sophisticated project,” and noted following the installation of the sheet piling the city would “in short order” demolish the former Oswego Yacht Club building — the only structure on the pier — and replace it with a new building.

“The pier underneath the building was among the most undermined, damaged areas along the perimeter,” Barlow said. “We opened the ground up and couldn’t penetrate the sheets like we needed to properly repair the damage.”

The alternative to demolishing the structure would have resulted in “enormous costs,” the mayor said, and rather than incur the costs, the city plans to knock down the building. Barlow said the move would cost less and create a new structure that “better suits the desired use of the pier.”

Barlow said the pier project is on track so far, with sheeting and structural work to continue into September with preliminary surface work starting this fall. Plans currently call for the pier to open in mid- to late-summer 2022, but Barlow called that a “very ambitious” goal and said a late spring or early summer 2023 opening is more likely.

Work is expected to continue until the project is completed, and Barlow said when the project is completed will ultimately depend on how much progress is made this summer.

“It is a massive, massive project,” Barlow said. “People don’t realize how big of a project it is and how complicated it is working on a pier like this. We’re working through it and so far we haven’t run into any issue, besides the demolition of the building, that’ll force us to deviate from our original vision.”

Barlow said after starting the project, it became clear without large-scale maintenance and repairs the pier would likely have been condemned in seven to 10 years.

In addition to the stabilization work, planned improvements to the pier include the installation of new water, sewer and electrical services, as well as landscaping and aesthetic improvements.

The city and the Oswego Yacht Club (OYC), which was the long-time occupant of the International Pier’s only existing building, have been entangled in a legal dispute since last year when the city moved to terminate the shared lease agreement.

OYC sued the city for breach of contract and the city instead commenced an eminent domain proceeding to take back control of the property. The city made an offer of $140,000 to OYC as part of the proceedings, but the proceedings have not yet been finalized.

The REDI program has funded more than 130 local and regional projects, with more than two dozen completed or under construction and more than 100 in the design phase, according to the state. Several completed projects are in Oswego County, including at the Port of Oswego Authority and Mexico Point State Park.

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