At Irish Boat Shop, the waterfront is our place of business. Since 1961 when we began operations in Harbor Springs, we have both cared for and reshaped the shoreline to serve the needs of our customers. Our first building in Harbor Springs was moved to its waterfront location on the back of a Ford truck through town. It’s safe to say that Irish Boat Shop and our operations have grown since then, yet we’ve rebuilt facilities only rarely. As seldom as we rebuild, each time we do so we have a long list of problems to solve. Each rebuild is done with the utmost attention to the responsibilities we have to our business, community, and neighbors. Let us walk you through the basis for our rebuilding plans this time around.
When we began our work with the design team, Buday+Kruzel, we first assumed that the building would be rebuilt in its current location, and our work yard layout would remain largely unchanged. We thought that was the only practical option. As we worked through our list of problems, though, we were forced to broaden our perspective to include rearranging our entire site. After considering many design iterations, it became clear that addressing safety, traffic, and work flow issues would require a different site configuration, one that includes moving the building to the southwest corner of the property. The way that people and cars move on the site must change, and moving the building facilitates those changes.
The issues that drove our site change stem from this community’s love for boating, and the popularity of sailing programs centering around our neighboring sailing school (LTS) and yacht club (LTYC). In the summer, traffic going through our work area presents a serious safety problem. People sight see from their cars while our crew is walking between buildings, moving boats, using power tools, testing engines, and doing all the things we do. Kids from the sailing school next door, both students and instructors, use our restrooms and to do so, they walk between parked cars into an active driveway, often in bare feet. Our plans address this by creating an easy and safe pedestrian link between LTYC, LTS, and our new main building. Sailing school parents currently use our driveway for a drop-off/pick-up zone, which is a problem for our crew’s access. Having our trucks sitting with a boat on a trailer in Bay Street while we urge parents to move out of the way is not a good situation. Our new driveway configuration provides a safe place for people to drive through and drop off and a separate entrance for our work vehicles only.
We made it clear to our design team that our new site configuration should contribute to the continuity of the waterfront as a welcoming public space that encourages the public to walk towards the water. Open and accessible to everyone and visible from the main road into Harbor Springs, we have met both the letter and spirit of the Zoning Ordinance and the Master Plan’s intent. We have for years maintained a view easement through Judd Street; by moving our main building we’re able to expand that to the benefit of all. The water view from Shay Park through the easement area will increase by 240% and the view from the Ephraim Shay Historical Site will increase by 290%. Because the proposed building is farther from the road there is a significant net increase in water view to the community, with much smaller reductions to the views of LTYC and a neighboring homeowner.
The waterfront/South side of the planned building is designed to be a place where anyone can come and watch the boats. Its wide patio is meant to be a space for all. The view we will have from the new building is a view that serves anyone in the community; we have never excluded or even discouraged public use of our facilities, and that will not change. We would love to see parents sitting on our patio watching the kids rig the boats and sail away. We’d love to have the boating community hang out and see what’s going on in the harbor. That was our intent in providing a public patio, a balcony with easier access, and a boater’s lounge facing the docks.
Though our site will change, our core mission will remain the same: we help people have fun with their boats, and provide them a safe and beautiful place to access the lake. Irish Boat Shop has a long tradition of serving the Harbor Springs community, and we intend to continue that tradition in 2019.
It’s been said that the only constant is change – this holds true for the Store/Office/Showroom building at Irish Boat Shop. On October 18th, the City approved plans for Irish Boat Shop to build a new, modern facility in the southwest corner of its waterfront property on Bay Street in Harbor Springs.
The new building will offer a fully heated and air-conditioned boat showroom, an inviting retail space, and an expanded office suite to house Irish’s rapidly growing team. While the new building will be only one square foot larger than the current building and similar width and height, its new location on the site and overall design allow maximum flexibility for hosting both indoor and outdoor events, as well as vastly improved safety for the community, Irish customers and employees, and youngsters in the LTS program. The
The space will benefit Irish customers by providing a comprehensive boater’s lounge which will include convenient laundry facilities. The new designs are carefully planned by local architects Buday+Kruzel to benefit the Harbor Springs community by improving views of the water from Judd Street, and showcasing the Shay House from the water.
“The existing building has served us well for almost 5 decades, but it’s time to upgrade the building to meet our current and future needs,” said Irish Boat Shop President Michael Esposito. “We originally looked at rebuilding in the same location, but the more we looked the more it only made sense to move the building to the Southwest corner of the property. The new location makes the entire facility safer for our customers and guests, dramatically improves our ability to do the launching and hauling that are so critical in the spring and fall, and will result in improved views of our beautiful harbor.”
With the approval from the City in place, Irish expects to break ground in August 2019 with an anticipated 18-24 months of construction. Irish does not anticipate the construction to interrupt its normal business flow nor that of its neighbors.