WHOI plans $27M building for Quissett campus
August 21, 2019 : Cape Cod Times, by Christine Legere
Facility must undergo Cape Cod Commission review before facing town boards.
WOODS HOLE — Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has begun the permit process for a $27 million, 50,000-square-foot building planned for its Quissett campus.
The nonprofit organization currently has laboratories, research and educational facilities, as well as its administrative offices, on the 124-acre property off Woods Hole Road.
Based on its recent submission to the Falmouth Planning Department, the project calls for a three-story building to be constructed on the northern portion of the site.
Groundbreaking is expected in the first half of next year. "Hopefully, early in 2021 we'll be ready to move in," said Mark Abbott, WHOI's president and director.
Once the building is completed, the institution will move its rigging group there. Now located elsewhere in the village, that operation supplies, maintains and fabricates equipment for the research vessels that leave from WHOI's dock.
The new building also will house a group focused on furthering the institution's underwater capabilities, called Advanced Vehicle Sensing Technologies.
"We're really looking at using all the advancements in underwater technology, from sensors to robotics and communications, to further our understanding of the ocean," Abbott said. "This will bring experts from all those areas together."
The facility also will offer collaboration space for future projects, an advanced fabrication lab and areas for expansion.
Plans call for bike racks, sidewalks and a shuttle stop aimed at lessening traffic impact. Foliage will be planted to screen neighbors and Woods Hole Road from the new building.
"The new building has been designed to blend in with local architecture and existing research facilities on WHOI's campus," according to the organization's submission.
The project, along with other maintenance, will be paid for with a $75.5 million tax-exempt bond from MassDevelopment.
"MassDevelopment works with nonprofit organizations and institutions to help them with access to capital to finance costs such as equipment upgrades, new construction, or renovations," agency spokeswoman Kelsey Schiller wrote in an email. "The organization is using, or already has used, bond proceeds to construct a new research building at Quissett Campus; perform maintenance and upgrades at the Blake Laboratory; improve pedestrian connections, roadways and parking at the campuses; as well as complete other routine capital expenditures."
Abbott said the bond made the ambitious project possible.
"By issuing this bond, MassDevelopment has recognized the importance of the ocean and ocean research," Abbott said.
The Falmouth Planning Board has placed the project on Tuesday's meeting agenda, but Town Planner Thomas Bott said the panel would suspend its local site plan review until the Cape Cod Commission has finished its consideration.
Buildings larger than 10,000 square feet trigger the threshold for developments of regional impact that require commission review.
According to WHOI spokeswoman Erin Koenig, the project is not expected to need permits from the Falmouth Conservation Commission or Zoning Board of Appeals.
The world's largest private, nonprofit ocean research, science and educational organization, WHOI is the second largest employer on Cape Cod, with a staff of 1,000.