Industry Insight: Projects cater to desire for waterfront living
Just off U.S. 50 outside of Salisbury, a 25-horsepower fountain set in a small pond commands attention as it shoots water nearly 60 feet in the air. At night, it’s no less spectacular. LEDs illuminate the water and change color according to the owner’s desire. (In September, the fountain was lit up in bright purple to highlight substance abuse awareness.)
The owner of the newly installed water feature isn’t a tourist attraction, high-end residential development or event public site. It’s the Pittsville/Preston Ford dealership.
In the current robust economy, property owners – from major developers to condominium communities to retailers – are game to invest in water features, amenities and waterfront living. And they are making those investments in all sorts of bodies of water from ocean frontage to small tributaries to stormwater management ponds.
Naturally, that trend is generating opportunities for contractors. “Fountains are going up like crazy right now,” said Chris Fish, President of Lake Source. “Once one community in an area gets a fountain, it’s like dominos. The next development wants one too… People driving by see the fountain, then look at the sign that says ‘homesites available’ and it sells lots.”
Fountains, however, aren’t solely being installed to sell building sites and SUVs, and they are not the only water feature owners are installing.
Proud of their ability to “turn eyesores into assets,” Lake Source is steadily contracted to clean up, beautify and maintain stormwater management ponds and other small bodies of water. That process can include removing invasive plant species, reestablishing native plants, stabilizing banks, treating/monitoring water quality, controlling algae, installing fountains for aesthetics and aeration, and even establishing fish stocks.
“We stock some ponds with game fish, such as largemouth bass, because a community or a developer wants a fishing hole,”Fish said.“We have stocked ponds as small as a quarter of an acre and as large as 10 acres.”
Beside larger bodies of water, efforts to redevelop properties and offer amenities require significantly more effort and expense, but increasingly, owners are willing to meet those requirements, said Jesse Lindsay, Senior Vice President, Marine-Industrial for Whitney Bailey Cox & Magnani (WBCM).
In residential, commercial and mixed developments along Baltimore’s shoreline, “there is always a need to incorporate the water’s edge into the development. There is a desire to make it accessible to the public with pedestrian walkways, promenades, fishing spots and boat launches,” Lindsay said. “That presents some challenges with keeping the public safe and designing facilities to be sustainable.”
Serious flood events – including the flash floods in Ellicott City, the storm surge from Hurricane Isabel, damage from Hurricane Sandy and flooding along the Jones Falls and elsewhere from heavy rainfalls – have not lessened the demand for waterside developments but have convinced owners to invest in resiliency measures.
“One of the strategies we employ is to use floating structures because they have some built-in resiliency,” Lindsay said. “Extending the guide piles higher for those floating [piers and other] structures may look a bit ridiculous…but they can withstand large storm surge events.”
WBCM – which engineered the Recreation Pier/Pendry Hotel project, Harborview Pier Townhomes in Baltimore, the North Shore at Canton Development and the Ritz-Carlton waterfront improvements – has also increasingly outfitted developments with “extreme waterproofing” features even when local codes did not require them. Those have included breakwaters and other wave-attenuation strategies, raising ground levels of buildings above the 500-year floodplain, adding flood doors to existing buildings and installing stormwater pumping stations. “Waterfront sites are seen as premium sites…and owners want to equip waterfront facilities for the future by building to a higher level of resiliency,” Lindsay said.