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Yacht Club ‘deconstruction’ consensus: Out with the old

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Sep 15, 2023

All Cape Coral City Council members were in favor of saving the glass doors, with some having ideas as to how to incorporate them into the design of a new building at the city park off Driftwood Parkway. FILE/CJ HADDAD

Cape Coral City Council determined Wednesday there is little worth saving from among the historical elements of the 61-year-old Ballroom at the Cape Coral Yacht Club complex.

Council took a consensus of fixtures to be saved and possibly incorporated into a new structure, reaching agreement to save the glass doors from Ballroom and not much else, depending on the cost analysis in a pending “deconstruction” bid to tear down the building.

James Pankonin, with Kimley Horne, took Council through a presentation that highlighted what the Yacht Club stakeholders group wanted to preserve.

The appointed citizen panel had an opportunity to walk through the Yacht Club Ballroom on Aug. 23, to look at elements for potential preservation, such as the interior ceiling beams, stonework, chandeliers/sconces, terrazzo flooring, fountain, exterior posts and beam supports.

Pankonin said the idea was how the elements could be preserved or incorporated into a new design in a meaningful way.

Through these discussions, many challenges were shared, ranging from cleaning and refinishing items, potential for breakage, as well as storing the items, items not original to the building, and having structural evaluation and certification before using in another structure.

Pankonin said Cape Coral Museum of History representatives identified some of the control panels, as it had a vintage electronic fixture that they wanted to incorporate in a display at the museum.

In addition, there was a desire to keep all of the onsite donation plaques, which Pankonin said would be collected and reused, or displayed in an appropriate manner. One of those options could be an onsite museum, room, or hallway, in the new ballroom design.

Each of the Council members shared their opinion of what they would like to see incorporated or have designed as similar features in the new building, which eventually turned into a consensus of what they would like to place in a bid for the demolition of the Yacht Club. That stemmed around four areas the stakeholder group identified — interior ceiling beams, stonework, fountain and interior glass doors.

Staff said the beams would be the most costly to salvage.

Stonework

Mayor John Gunter said he has had the unfortunate opportunity to tear down fireplaces before, which typically just crumble. He was in favor of making an outdoor fireplace similar to the one inside the Yacht Club, but not necessarily with the actual stone.

A suggestion Gunter gave was to dismantle the fireplace and give some of the stone to the community, or individuals interested in having a piece of the fireplace.

Another idea thrown out by Councilmember Bill Steinke was to have an outdoor reflection area, a memory area by recreating the fireplace exactly the way it is with new material. Another idea was to commission an artist to make items out of the material which could be sold with proceeds benefiting the history museum.

Fountain

Council was not married to the fountain in place now, but all wanted to see a new fountain incorporated in the design.

“The fountain was dedicated to an employee there for 30 years. If we put a fountain in, I would like to see that plaque put up. I want to save and recreate and put into a new design because there is a reason why it was dedicated. I do believe we need a fountain,” Councilmember Robert Welsh said.

Interior beams

There were conversations about saving and not saving the Ballroom’s interior beams, an aspect of the mid-century design.

“The concept is more important than the actual structure or material we are talking about. The interior beams, we can incorporate in a new design to mimic what we have here. I don’t think we need to use the exact same beams that we have there,” Gunter said.

To save the interior beams, they would have to be carefully removed before demolition by peeling off the existing roof, strapping the beams to a crane and then cutting them.

Councilmember Keith Long said they can certainly replicate the beams, as the original ones are laminated wood.

“I wouldn’t support that to put in a bid package to remove laminate wood beams,” he said.

Councilmember Tom Hayden took issue with the process, which included asking for citizen volunteers, choosing electronically from among the applicants to get a good mix and then ignoring what those stakeholders had to say. There is no reason to do these groups if Council is not going to listen to what they have to say, he added.

Other Council members said they would like to save portions of the beams once the building is demolished.

“I am not for spending extra money to remove them. We can go and save what we can. Grab some scraps and pieces and hire an artist to put something together,” Councilmember Patty Cummings said.

Glass doors

There was one solid consensus for preservation.

All of the Council members were in favor of saving the glass doors, with some having ideas as to how to incorporate them into the design of a new building at the city park off Driftwood Parkway.

Hayden said he would like to see a room dedicated to the preservation of the history of the old building with pictures and plaques.

“It’s a great opportunity to show and preserve history,” he said.

Welsh said the glass doors could be entry doors to a hallway that has all the history.

It was later shared that those doors could also be the entrance to a room dedicated to the history of the Yacht Club.

Cape Coral City Council voted to demolish the buildings at the complex that dates back to the community’s founding after Hurricane Ian.

Ian destroyed the fishing pier at the riverfront park, heavily damaged the waterfront amenities and the Tony Rotino Senior Center but did surprisingly little damage to the park’s centerpiece — the Ballroom building itself.

The cost of making repairs, though, coupled with the heavy cost of what officials called “deferred maintenance” to the center, and FEMA’s 50 percent rule which requires that rebuilds be up to current code made the saving the building too expensive, Council determined.

A design for a whole new park complex is still in the works with cost estimates as high as $100 million.

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