OSWEGO — The city's multi-million dollar International Pier stabilization venture — the first phase of a larger, multi-year project to repurpose the space — could be underway as soon as next month after councilors approved a series of resolutions Monday connected to the project.
The International Pier overhaul is aimed at reinforcing the earthen jetty that extends into the Oswego Harbor, which in recent years has deteriorated due to widespread flooding and high Lake Ontario waters. The Oswego Common Council on Monday approved two contracts totaling roughly $2.8 million to stabilize the pier and prepare the structure to become a pedestrian-oriented boardback during the second-phase of the transformation.
Councilors also approved a $1.4 million bonding resolution to help pay the up-front costs, which will largely be reimbursed through state grant funding.
Dating back to August 2019 when the project was first proposed, Oswego Mayor Billy Barlow called “transforming the International Pier” into a boardwalk atmosphere one of the city’s top waterfront priorities. Barlow says the underutilized parcel, which for years was home only to the Oswego Yacht Club, will become a pedestrian-friendly attraction that would complement the recent and ongoing improvements to adjacent Breitbeck Park and Wright’s Landing Marina.
“When you look at other communities with a pier reaching out into a body of water, the pier is the most valuable and coveted piece of property in the community,” Barlow told The Palladium-Times last summer, adding city officials are seeking to create an economic draw with the building formerly occupied by the Oswego Yacht Club.
Along with plans to create an attraction with the former yacht club building, the city is planning to maintain green space throughout the peninsula and other features. Barlow said the pier is critical to the overall development and improvement of the city's waterfront, which the mayor has repeatedly said is bursting with untapped potential.
“Oswego residents know that we have failed to capitalize on our waterfront for years and it’s because the little waterfront the city owns, we don’t take advantage of," Barlow said.
The first phase of the International Pier work, which involves solidifying the underground and underwater portions of the pier, could start as early as mid-March, Barlow said, noting “it’ll be a long project” that could be ongoing well into 2022.
Engineers used divers and underwater drones to inspect the underlying foundation of the International Pier, and determined the “pier is really unstable and probably in danger of being condemned in the next five to 10 years,” Barlow said.
The largest and most expensive component of the stabilization project is surrounding the perimeter of the pier with new sheet piling.
Once the structure is stabilized, the city Department of Public Works (DPW) is expected to complete the surface work.
The city was awarded $12.6 million in grant funding through the state Lake Ontario Resiliency and Economic Development Initiative (REDI), with $6.1 million slated for Wright’s Landing and $6.5 million for the International Pier. The REDI program was prompted by lakeshore flooding that devastated homeowners, businesses and municipalities in 2017 and 2019.
The city DPW is performing the Wright’s Landing improvements in-house, which Barlow said saved the city about $3.5 million, and officials are looking to move those funds to the International Pier project.
If approved by the state, the city would have more than $9 million to transform the International Pier, which Barlow said would be “enough money to complete a project we can all be proud of.”
The bulk of the spending approved Monday is connected to a $2.77 million contract with W.D. Malone Trucking and Excavating. The Hannibal-based contractor submitted the low bid for the stabilization work, coming in more than $300,000 lower than any other bidder.
Another contract approved Monday calls for CEG CME Engineering Group to receive $49,840 to provide geotechnical services for the project.
Barlow, in his state of the city address earlier this year, announced the completed International Pier would be named after the late former mayor Bill Cahill.