MdR Boat Central: A New Boating Option

Byline: Taylor Hill

MdR Boat Central: A New Boating Option

MARINA DEL REY — With construction still more than a year away, Marina del Rey’s planned dry stack boat storage complex adjacent to the public launch ramp has many boaters wondering what new options the facility can offer local boaters.

The 40,000-square-foot building will hold 345 dry stack storage spaces for boats in the 20- to 35-foot range, with stored vessels capable of being stacked in racks up to six boats high.

“What we’re working on is a new option for boaters in the area,” said Jennifer Jewett of Van Wert Inc., a consultant on the project for the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors. “This brings about a new storage option for boaters, and new storage capacity for Marina del Rey.”

With last year’s approval of the waterside portion of the county’s Marina del Rey redevelopment plan, around 693 slips will be lost for boats in the 30-foot and smaller size range, spread out among seven anchorages in the harbor.

The increase in vacancies in the harbor’s smaller slips, along with waiting lists for larger slips, made the decision an easy one for the California Coastal Commission. Commissioners voted 11-1 on the issue last year, and they allowed for the inclusion of an 80-foot-high “Boat Central” project in the county’s landside redevelopment plans.

Boaters and local residents have raised concerns about the project, citing increased vessel traffic in the basin, high boat storage costs, fewer public parking spaces for harbor users and the overall size of the facility as having negative effects on the harbor.

However, the advanced new facility is expected to provide a new style of storage for boaters, offering easy access to vessels while lessening maintenance requirements and eliminating some environmental impacts on the harbor that can stem from keeping boats in the water, in slips.

The idea of indoor dry stack storage is not new, but examples along the West Coast are few and far between. Lido Yacht Anchorage’s outdoor dry stack storage racks in Newport Harbor are identified as one of the few similar systems in Southern California — but this facility is not as large or as service-encompassing as the one planned for Boat Central by Jamie B. Myer Architects Inc. and developer Almar Marinas, the planners said.

To get an idea of what Boat Central will consist of, Roger Van Wert, president of Van Wert Inc., discussed the inner workings of what he calls a “state-of-the-art” facility, offering a glimpse of what is to come for boaters interested in dry stack storage.

“We’re hoping to meet the needs of recreational boaters who want to boat, but wet slip and current dry slip options don’t meet their needs as well as they would like,” Van Wert said. “This is for boaters who want to come down to the marina and just go.”

In looking at renderings of the building, Boat Central will definitely be an eye-catching facility, due in large part to its size. At more than 80 feet tall, 135 feet wide and 354 feet long — and hanging over the water’s edge nearly 100 feet — the building will replace what is currently a public parking lot.

With that in mind, Van Wert said the plan was to make sure the facility met the required boat storage needs in Marina del Rey set in place by the California Coastal Commission, while remaining aesthetically pleasing in the process.

Much of the building’s exterior will be lined with mesh and white polycarbonate, adding a translucent effect to the building, allowing natural light in to mitigate the need for daytime light use and giving passersby the ability to see the building’s intended marine use.

“We chose materials that would break up the mass of building,” Van Wert said. “During different times of the day, the building looks and reacts differently to sunlight, and we hope it adds an attractiveness that makes it an asset for the marina.”

Inside the building, the plans call for racks on both sides up to six boats high, to accommodate vessels as small as 20 feet or as large as 36 feet in length.

According to Van Wert, the racking system will function by way of a gantry crane attached to the building’s ceiling. Operating in the center of the building, the crane will take the boat from its rack and load it onto a hydraulic lift at the water’s edge. From there, the boat will be lowered into the water where it can be placed at the facility’s docks awaiting the boat owner’s arrival.

“The idea would be to have the boat owner make a reservation the day before they want to use the boat,” Van Wert said. “In most cases, we could put the boat in the water the night before, and make sure it is operational and ready to go for when the owner shows up.”

When returning, boaters would be able to pull up to the dock, tie up their boat and leave it in the hands of Almar Marina employees, who would return the boat to storage until the next time the boat was needed.

Tom Hogan, partner of Pacific Marina Inc. — Almar Marinas’ development branch — said the facility’s longest cycle for getting a boat from the racks to the water would be eight minutes.

While boaters who rent a dry stack space can always make a last-minute decision to come down to the facility and get their boat in the water without a reservation, calling ahead assures no wait time.

“We have the ability to queue somewhere between 60 and 90 boats in the water during busy times,” Hogan said. “So, on a weekend like the Fourth of July, we can get a lot of boats out on the water beforehand — so boaters don’t have to do a lot of standing around.”

The indoor dry stack storage option is a new opportunity for boaters in Southern California, and one that Hogan and Van Wert hope will bring a new kind of boater to the water.

“We’re looking to make boating more convenient,” Van Wert said. “If you’re a boater and have kids, you have to spend time getting the boat ready — and when you come back for the day, you have to do the same thing all over again. It can get difficult.”

For boaters who trailer their vessels from outside the harbor or who only use their boat a few times a year, Boat Central would be an option providing a protected environment, less maintenance requirements than wet slips and convenient waterside access.

Almar Marinas, owned by Hogan, Jeff Pence and Randy Short, operates and manages more than 6,000 slips in 18 marinas throughout California, Hawaii and Mexico. This is the company’s first endeavor involving dry stack storage.

Hogan said that with the current trend of West Coast marinas leaning toward larger boat slips, the demand for dry storage options with waterside access for smaller vessels made the project an attractive one for the company.

“We looked at a number of different dry stack facilities on the East Coast, and the overhead gantry crane component, which we brought into planning design, and the in-water launching capability of the facility became integral components,” Hogan said. “It’s state-of-the-art, and very efficient.”

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