An imaginative reassessment of the best way for people to enjoy the East Bathhouse at Jones Beach State Park is in the works.
Partly closed for seven years due to budget cuts, the state parks department has begun seeking proposals for overhauling the entire building while staying true to master builder Robert Moses’ conception of the park.
No decision has been made on whether to reopen the historic 1930 building’s pools, a choice that would shorten often lengthy lines on busy days at the West Bathhouse pools.
“We are open to considering all creative ideas for the re-use of the Jones Beach East Bathhouse and this includes the pool,” said Randy Simons, a spokesman for the Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, by email.
The parks department, in a “Request of Expressions of Interest,” a preliminary step, is asking any interested parties, from businesses to nonprofits, to devise plans to: “provide patrons with a distinct and positively memorable world-class experience that complements Jones Beach.”
Simons said this process “is a tool to help us decide if we wish to pursue one project or another, perhaps get pointed in a different direction all based on community feedback.”
The park’s current $65 million capital plan is devoted to many other major projects, such as the West Bathhouse, the East Mall Marketplace, a games area, an adventure course, restrooms, food concessions, lighting and signage.
The East Bathhouse, the park’s first major building and one that helped win the park a place on the National Register of Historic Places, originally was entered through the North Building.
That led to a central courtyard with changing rooms; beachgoers then walked through a tunnel to the South Building’s concessions, a promenade and a terrace.
From 1967 to 1970, the central courtyard was replaced with swimming pools, other features, including loggias or open-sided extensions were added, and the exterior footprint expanded to 182,200 square feet from 115,000 square feet. The East Bathhouse’s pools, showers and locker rooms remained open until 2009, when they were shut, part of the parks’ recession-driven cutbacks.
The bathhouse’s funding has not been restored; today, only the South Building, which offers retail, a food concession, restrooms, a first aid station, and the still popular terrace, is open.
The park’s document, noting its resources were limited, advised applicants to draft self-sustaining projects. It added the winner likely will also pay the capital and operating costs.
All financial details will be negotiated much later, Simons said, adding the agency might perhaps chip in: “Without seeing the ideas, it’s unfair to suggest one way or another.”
“Hopefully, the Request For Expressions of Interest will also afford us with a preliminary sense of the scope and scale of investment and impacts associated with a range of potential uses/adaptive reuses.”
Proposals are due Sept. 28.