Bergen County Rowing Center at Riverside County Park

Lyndhurst, N.J.


Submitted by: LiRo Group

Owner: Bergen County Dept. of Parks - Division of Parks and Recreation

Lead Design Firm: Clarke Caton Hintz

Architect: Peterson Architects

General Contractor: LiRo Program and Construction Management PE P.C.

Civil Engineer: Langan

Structural Engineer: Harrison-Hamnet P.C. Consulting Structural Engineers

MEP Engineer: H2M Associates Inc.

Special Inspections: Tectonic Engineering

The project team for the new Bergen County Row Center, set along the Passaic River in North Arlington, N.J., knew the boathouse needed to be rugged. Built on a floodplain in Riverside County Park, the facility had to be able to withstand potentially significant storm surge.

“When we started the project, there was a shed out there that had Sharpie marks on an overhead door that showed the flood elevation when [Superstorm] Sandy rolled through,” recalls Michael Nelson, project manager and associate principal at Clarke Caton Hintz, which designed the new facility. “They had marked another couple of storms that rolled through and those were chest high when you’re standing in front of the door. It was kind of jarring to stand there and think this entire place was underwater.”

Bergen County Rowing Center at Riverside County Park

Photo courtesy of The LiRo Group

Nelson says the solution was to create a ground level that structurally is a “concrete bunker,” able to withstand the lateral loads of a flood event. Reinforced concrete was selected for the lower portion of the building for its rugged and highly tactile characteristics. Foundation walls and the building’s lateral structural resistance were engineered to account for hydrostatic pressure, hydrodynamic forces, debris impact loading and scour from riverine flooding.

Functionally, the first level serves primarily as indoor storage for sculls and equipment. The concrete structure is topped by a second level steel structure. Positioned well above 100-year flood event levels, the second floor features a 3,000-sq-ft team room and community multipurpose space with a terrace overlooking the Passaic River. The room is flexible, allowing for quick transformation from a fitness center with weight training and indoor rowing ergometers into a community focused space for meetings, presentations, performances and event ceremonies. Support spaces include locker rooms, offices, a lounge and restrooms.

To connect the two levels visually, crews used dimensional form liners with an expressed wood grain in the casting of the concrete to visually soften the material.

“Using form liners on the exterior of the building elevated the appearance of it,” says Chris Carter, associate vice president at The LiRo Group, which was CM as agent and owner’s representative on the project. “The second-floor steel structure is pretty clean and simple. We designed an arch structure and just let the structure be exposed. We did visit the steel fabricator shop, which did mock-ups of all the connections and welds to make sure things like piece numbers were removed from steel members.”

Bergen County Rowing Center at Riverside County Park

Photo courtesy of The LiRo Group

Tight Schedule

The $7.6-million boathouse, which broke ground in May 2021, is set on a foundation of 145 timber piles. With a roughly one-year construction schedule, the project had little room to accommodate schedule changes, so maintaining tight controls was critical, says Carter.

Built at the height of pandemic-related supply chain issues, he says the team saw delays in materials such as insulation as well as the form liners needed to create the wood grain look on the concrete. Installation and use of the form liners required strategic sequencing. Each form liner sheet was treated like a piece of a puzzle with each piece designed to fit in a specific section of each wall. For quality reasons, each section could only be used a few times, which created a challenge with getting the required amount of material in a timely manner. The manufacturer of the form liners—located in Georgia—expedited the production and shipment of the material to meet the project’s schedule.

Bergen County Rowing Center at Riverside County Park

Photo courtesy of The LiRo Group

“It was all about being creative during construction, working with the contractors and their subcontractors and sitting down with the schedule to resequence work and keep moving,” he says.

The project schedule was discussed during biweekly progress meetings conducted by LiRo. Milestones, critical path and long lead items had to be carefully tracked. Because the project schedule incorporated a detailed section for submittals, all required shop drawings, materials and product data could be tracked. Upcoming installations were looked at in advance to ensure that any related submittals were approved and secured well before the start of the scheduled work activity. In addition to the baseline and project schedule updates, LiRo required a two-week look-ahead schedule from the contractors.

In addition to constructing the new building, the scope included restoring an existing boathouse storage facility; removing site fences and storm utilities; relocating existing boat storage sheds; and routing new utilities from Riverside Avenue and other structures within Riverside County Park.

Bergen County Rowing Center at Riverside County Park

Photo courtesy of The LiRo Group

Protecting the Public

Throughout the project, Riverside County Park remained open to the public. The project team had to accommodate the park’s daily operations, including the Passaic River Rowing Association daily activities and other construction activity in the park with the use of only one entry and exit.

Maintaining multiple contractors at one time while the park continued with its daily operations added layers of complexity. LiRo had direct involvement with the planning and developing of the project’s maintenance and protection of traffic plan and worked directly with the owner’s consultant and the facility throughout the process.

Bergen County Rowing Center at Riverside County Park

Photo courtesy of The LiRo Group

The in-depth process required significant planning and coordination on site. Throughout the different phases of this project, the team was able to safely modify and change the traffic plan measures without interrupting the park and construction activities.

“These parks don’t close,” Carter says. “We had great success, always being very sensitive to the owner’s needs and keeping their programs running safely and successfully.”

LiRo’s corporate safety director reviewed all construction documents to ensure that applicable safety rules and regulations were followed, including specs, contractor submittals and LiRo’s site-specific health and safety plan and job hazard analysis. During 10,271 work hours, the project saw no lost-time accidents and no OSHA recordable incidents.

Bergen County Rowing Center at Riverside County Park

Photo courtesy of The LiRo Group

Completed in June 2022, the boathouse building now serves as a venue for the advancement of rowing and paddle sports on an amateur, high school and collegiate scale. The facility supplements the existing 2,600-sq-ft, one-story rowing center building in addition to the recently completed in-water improvements that consist of piers, gangways and floating docks off the Passaic River.

“The new boat house is a beautiful, useful addition to our Riverside County Park—something the young athletes from our area will get to enjoy and be proud of,” says Daniel H. Pronti, mayor of North Arlington.