The Bridgeport & Port Jefferson Steamboat Company has purchased the property at 116 West Broadway and has plans to knock down the existing structure to build a two-story office building on the site.
The new building will accommodate back-office employees while the current terminal will remain open for passenger services, for now.
Long-term plans, according to Fred Hall, vice president and general manager of the ferry company, include razing the existing terminal structure to make more room for staging vehicles entering and exiting the ferry and a new way for passengers to board their ships.
Hall said the company has a vision to transform the current dock but building the new office building is an essential part of the plan so that business will not be interrupted.
Currently, cars jockey for position alongside walk-on passengers boarding the ferry. According to Hall, the ferry company aims to eliminate the congestion with a new ferry terminal that makes more room for vehicles. To do this, Hall describes creating the “equivalent of an airport jetway” with stairs and an elevator for passengers to walk onto the ferry, enhancing the experience and completely separating cars from passengers.
The project would be a multi-step process of moving offices to the new building, then creating a new waiting room and ticketing area with amenities like restrooms totally separate from the vehicle area.
“We can certainly use more staging space,” said Hall.
In order to gain that extra space, he said the company considered two options. Option A was to extend the pier, a very costly endeavor. Option B was to rebuild the current terminal. He said rebuilding the terminal is the less expensive option but the company would not discount the alternative.
“It doesn’t mean we won’t extend the pier one day,” Hall added.
The existing ferry building will need to be modernized anyway, he said.
“It’s actually three buildings that were cobbled together over the years.”
A previous proposal from 2016 to turn the newly acquired site into a restaurant by The Crest Group — now the owners Danfords Hotel & Marina and The Waterview at the Port Jefferson Country Club — never came to fruition. The ferry company purchased the building at 116 West Broadway from The Crest Group in 2018, according to village records.
The first part of their plan — moving offices to a new location — is well on its way. In December, the village received what it described as an application “for a proposed two-story ferry office building.” According to documents from the Port Jefferson Village planning department, plans for the new building are being designed by Holbrook-based EAB Architectural Designs.
The plans call for six offices and a conference room on the first floor and three offices, a call center and a break room on the second floor.
Employee parking for the ferry company will also be at this location. The property is located adjacent to the Brookhaven Town parking lot within walking distance to the ferry terminal.
Comments from the planning board on the application include a preference to break up what it said was a flat look to the facade and create depth possibly through recessed entries, and other elements. Hall said that the company is drafting a new design, which it will present in the next few weeks.
The ferry company will need a variance on the building height.
The new building will be 36-feet, 9-inches tall, which is higher than the village code of 30 feet in that zone. A public hearing is set for Feb. 27. In its application the company states that the first floor of the building must be raised due to FEMA requirements, adding to its total height.
Plans also call for a handicap lift to be installed instead of a ramp to access the new building.
Hall said that they are getting close to demolitioning the existing structure in advance of site plan approval. He said the building, known as the Suffolk County Water Authority office and previous use as a bank, still has a vault inside of it.
“As much as we wanted to keep it the engineers report says it has to come down.”
Top: Street view of the building at 116 West Broadway in Port Jefferson (credit: Google maps)