Ryan Cardella, operations manager for East Coast Flightcraft Inc., describes the work to be done at the Weirs Pier. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — The century-old Weirs Pier, which is undergoing a facelift for the summer season, likely will be torn down eventually so that it can be replaced with modern steel construction.
Ryan Cardella, operations manager for the boat company that owns the structure, said Thursday that demolition is being considered as a more economical option than piece-by-piece replacement of aging wood supports.
"It's also about safety too, because there's so much wood in here, and you have to go through and find out what makes sense and what doesn't, and what's going to hold, because we want the integrity of the building to last," said Cardella, of East Coast Flightcraft Inc.
Efforts will be made to retain a historic feel.
"It makes sense to actually replace the wood with steel structuring, but we want to keep the pier looking like a pier," he said. "We don't want it to look like a steel warehouse or anything like that. We want a setup like you are going to visit a friend's lake house. There will still be a lot of wood features and wood faces but steel underneath. The bones, the spine, will be steel."
Brandee Loughlin, Laconia's assistant planning director, said it's not surprising for a builder to do a major upgrade on building supports for an old wooden structure.
Since the pier is over water, the project would fall under state regulatory control, she said. Ultimately, a demolition permit could be sought.
It could take five years before all work is completed on the project, but in the short term, workers are rushing to have a small general store, a casual restaurant, an arcade and other public spaces on the pier ready for business next month.
The boardwalk leading up to the pier will also be ready for the summer season, including a Sal's Pizza, a Traveling Texas Smoke Shop restaurant, a souvenir shop and a candy store.
The long-term project calls for the addition of about 30 public boat slips, which would be owned by the city of Laconia. There are 47 slips now.
There is a need for more boat slips in the area, Cardella said. Some of the existing slips are undersized. Six slips will be used by his company to show and sell boats.
There will be inside areas for boaters to relax and meet others who are using the dock for the season.
"We want you to know your neighbor," he said. "We want it to be like it was in the '40s and '50s, when you knew everybody."
The pier was in its heyday during the Big Band Era. Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Harry James and Paul Whiteman were among the big names who played in its ballroom.
On Thursday, workers were sanding portions of the wooden floor where people once danced to this music.
The pier area lost some of its cachet and its entertainment when Elvis Presley ushered in the rock 'n' roll era and the bands that once played there went out of existence.
The miniature golf course has already been removed from the property. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
The wood pilings for the pier are aging and plans call for replacement with steel. (Adam Drapcho/Laconia Daily Sun)
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