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Coastal Engineering Company of Orleans Cape Cod

Wychmere Beach Club - Waterfront Redevelopment

Published September 12, 2023 by Marshall H. Puffer,
Wychmere Beach Club Waterfront Redevelopment

Spanning nearly 20 acres, The Wychmere Beach Club and Inn combines Cape Cod’s timeless Americana style with a touch of nautical elegance. Its stunning surroundings and picturesque setting provide an exquisite backdrop for any special occasion. Historically a premier destination on Cape Cod, it is known for its breathtaking ocean views, upscale pool and beach club, and venue for special functions and events in the quaint coastal town of Harwich.

However, in recent years, the resort ownership noticed that the oceanfront portion of the resort was underutilized. They felt there was an opportunity to take better advantage of the spectacular Merkle Beach and its connection to the pool facility. There was a desire to create one of the largest pool clusters on Cape Cod to allow the beach club to prosper. There was also a need for a spacious building to house weddings and functions that account for a large part of the property’s success.

Coastal Engineering Company (CEC) was part of the site redevelopment team that transformed the outdated  35,000 square foot oceanfront portion of the resort into a meticulously landscaped wedding and event venue - a combination of indoor and outdoor spaces encompassing a private beach with a tiki bar, three heated pools with depths ranging from 1 to 5 feet, oceanfront dining with gazebo/pergola poolside bar, and The Dune event pavilion with a roof deck. CEC provided full scope civil and structural engineering, permitting, and construction contract administration, as well as project team coordination with design professionals, contractors, landscape architects, and ecological resources specialists. The overall project theme and program was developed based upon the following the following necessary points:

·             Maintain a strong and direct connection to the beach, both from a pedestrian and vehicular standpoint. Keep vistas open to visually and physically connect to the beach. Develop an impressive walking sequence into the pool area and multiple connections to the beach through the use of planting, pergolas, and walkways.

·             Incorporate clear locations of member control and check in.

·             Relocate and reuse the Coastal Bar, an existing outdoor bar/restaurant facility. Expand the eating areas around the perimeter of the Coastal Bar.

·             Add three pools for relaxation and entertainment. Establish seating areas around the pools based upon pool size and usage.

·             Improve an existing deck to further encourage interaction with the beach.

·             Screen service areas and storage and place them in areas away from the guest experience.

Wychmere Beach Club Aerial Dune Building

The Dune Building

The new Dune Building is a custom designed two-story restaurant/event space which spoils resort guests with panoramic views of Nantucket Sound accessible through expansive windows, balconies, and a rooftop terrace with frameless glass walls. Structurally, it is supported with a deep foundation system extending above grade to the first-floor framing. The lowest floor elevation is set at grade and has large accordion-style doors towards the water side. The construction of the lowest floor is cast-in-place concrete slab-on-grade with a retaining wall towards the poolside of the structure that is independent from the foundation system. This retaining wall is modular block construction. The superstructure is wood framed with exterior steel moment frames and a center bearing line of columns supporting the first-floor framing. The first-floor framing set an elevation to accommodate the Design Flood Elevation (DFE) with break away walls on the perimeter of the enclosed storage space located below the DFE. 

Wychmere Beach Club Restaurant

The Coastal Bar/Pavilion

The Coastal Bar/Pavilion was an existing open canopy building that was partially demolished and relocated on the site to provide better layout of the pools and pool deck areas that drastically improved the utilization of space and also allowed for the uninterrupted views of the vista. A small addition was appended to the existing building to house the service bar, utilities, and storage. The resulting building is a single-story open-air column supported structure on a deep foundation system. The roof is primarily a hip style pergola with a gazebo to one end.

Wychmere Beach Club Pool


A spacious spa with three pools was placed in the center to take full advantage of beach views. Each pool was made private with plantings and accommodates a separate age group:

  1. Main pool has active and passive swim areas for all ages
  2. Teen pool has active water sports
  3. Infant pool has room for parents

Mitigation for Stormwater Runoff

The redevelopment of the site improved the conditions of the resort’s existing untreated stormwater discharge from buildings and patios. The new drainage system was designed to collect and treat stormwater in a soil absorption system located on site. Enhanced drainage improved existing stormwater runoff patterns resulting in a sustainable stormwater management system that complies  with Massachusetts Stormwater Handbook and Harwich Stormwater Regulation requirements.

While the redevelopment effort at the resort took place above areas prone to coastal storm flowage, the tiered plantings of native species above the existing seawall also enhanced the interest of flood control by providing a more effective buffer along the top of the coastal bank.     

Wychmere Beach Club Dune Roof Deck View

The Vision

The vision of the project was to provide a world class waterfront wedding and event venue with unparalleled views of Nantucket Sound to supplement the stunning grounds of the Wychmere Beach Club. The vision also included a new and updated pool area and an expansion of the dining venues to service the resort. 

The team fulfilled this vision by carefully planning and coordinating the individual aspects of this project into a cohesive master plan that fully developed the vision while conforming to Local and State regulations. The site was anchored by the pools creating individual areas for relaxation and enjoyment. The new Dune building was constructed to provide event space with stunning 180 degree waterfront views. The existing restaurant and bathhouse buildings were expanded.

The structures were designed to maximize the use of the venue, focusing on the waterfront views while remaining resilient to the forces of nature (wind, flood, snow, etc.). Being a waterfront facility, the site was developed with coastal resiliency in mind to ensure that the venues remain for years to come. The site was designed so that stormwater runoff was kept to a minimum while providing the necessary greenspace and hardscape to define the pool and dining areas. The team provided support for the multitude of permits (planning, zoning, conservation, etc.) required to construct such a facility.

Functionally and aesthetically, the Beach Club redevelopment project has brought tremendous enhancement to the Wychmere Resort.  The event venue, with floor to ceiling ocean views, has added space for guest events.  The tiered patios with attractive landscaping have added outdoor space for summer visitors.  The native plantings provide beauty and serve expertly to improve water runoff conditions at the resort.

Wychmere Beach Club Dune Building Roof Deck


Located on Nantucket Sound, the site lies within the boundaries of environmentally sensitive resource areas. The main challenge evolved around the ability to expand the facility while working within the Town of Harwich jurisdictional wetland buffers and flood zones. The facility had to be expanded, but there was very little room to add. The design team worked hand in hand with The Town of Harwich Conservation Commission in order to ensure that the development minimized the impact to the resource areas. Highly permeable synthetic turf was used for the seating areas and  hardscape coverage for walkways, pools, and patio areas was minimized whenever possible. Native plantings and beach mitigation (creation of an additional coastal dune area) allowed additional habitat but also assisted in the definition and privacy of the pool areas and facilities. With this collaboration the facility was able to be expanded and the design took shape.


The Dune Building and the Coastal Bar are located in a High Hazard Flood Zone VE with a Base Flood Elevation (BFE) of 15 feet based on FEMA Flood Maps. With the Design Flood Elevation (DFE - minimum elevation of the lowest horizontal structural member) being 17 feet, the structures needed to meet or exceed these FEMA flood zone requirements. Significant improvements from existing building conditions include constructing The Dune building on a pile foundation, elevating the lowest floor above BFE, and making provisions for flood waters to pass below the lowest floor of the building. The new building will provide improved protection of wetland interests by allowing flood waters to move below the building, and by reducing the chance that parts of the building will break free during a storm event and exacerbate any storm damage to the wetland resource areas.

Wychmere Beach Club Dune Building

Wow Factor

The final design resulted in the buildings (Dune & the Coastal Bar) being located to the waterfront perimeter so that the view and connection to the Nantucket Sound beach were reinforced. The pool is spacious and gracious. Seating and spaces were separated with plantings creating a variety of ‘rooms’ for the seating, eating, function areas. Pergolas direct guests and provide details to the space. The beach was bolstered with additional deck seating. All in an attempt to do justice to a beautiful coastal destination with a premiere beach.

The new oceanfront facility enhances the guest experience, elevating it to the next level, both figuratively and literally. The wedding ceremonies are held on the rooftop terrace outside, and dinner and dancing are perfect in the great room that overlooks the ocean. With panoramic windows and ocean views, the lighting in the space is beautiful as the sun begins to set. Guests have unlimited access onto the terrace and the beach to take in the surrounding beauty. With features like a waterfront restaurant, three swimming pools, a pavilion, and various beach amenities, Wychmere is a tranquil oasis that embodies absolute luxurious comfort and relaxation.

Wychmere Beach Club Harbor

Site Accessibility

A rotary-style arrival drop off to the Dune Building was connected to the existing parking. An accessible alley walkway along the Dune gives direct connection to the beach without entering the pool facility. In fact, all walkways to the Beach and facilities were designed to be accessible. The grand stairway connects the Dune Building to the pool area. Within the Dune Building, there is an elevator for easy access from the ground floor to the first floor restaurant and to the roof deck. 

Durable Building Materials

Durable materials designed for harsh New England weather conditions were selected for the building and grounds. Tempered glass was used for all windows and railings to maximize the views of the ocean, while remaining resilient to the forces of nature.

To comply with the Code, the deep foundation system was constructed of ductile iron piles driven below the subgrade. Steel columns were set on concrete pile caps to support the steel floor and roof framing. Shallow steel beams were used to maximize the head height in the lower level. Large steel girders (up to 36” deep) on the roof framing span over the large event space to provide an uninterrupted flow, free of column obstructions.

Coastal Charm

Building materials and design details were chosen to reflect traditional New England and provincial vernacular architecture, reinterpreted in the overall design’s sensitivity to the context of the site. Driftwood floors and shiplap blend into the beachy exterior, while the two extensive modern bars, VIP lounge, state of the art culinary workspace, and reception venue host up to 240 guests. High end finishes adorn the entire building, from the light fixtures to the bathroom tiles. The new Wychmere Beach Club is the ultimate beachside haven for those who appreciate the finer things in life.

Project Partners and/or Sub-Contractors

Civil/Structural Engineers-of-record: Coastal Engineering Company Inc.

Architects: Gakidis & Stewart Design Group

Landscape Architects: Hawk Design Inc.

Geotechnical Engineers: Mcardle Gannon Associates

General Contractor: Reynolds Construction

Landscape Contractor: The Schumacher Companies

Site Contractor: Barrows Excavating