Arts group hopes to buy, give to Forks site of burned store for arts center (Corrected story)
By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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“Hopefully, we will be able to come together on a price,” said Ellen Matheny, a board member of the Rainforest Players, which has representation on the arts center board.
West Olympic Council of the Arts, doing business as the Rainforest Arts Center and in partnership with the Rainforest Players, has negotiated for two months with Alaska Financial Co., owners of the lot, trying to agree on a price, Matheny said.
“We're waiting to hear if they will accept our counteroffer,” Matheny said.
The empty lot was once home to the Olympic Pharmacy building before a fire in an electrical box in the former International Order of Odd Fellows hall at 35 N. Forks Ave. destroyed the two adjoining buildings in October 2012.
The IOOF building, constructed in 1925, was used as a community center and theater.
The neighboring building had, after Olympic Pharmacy closed, housed Fern Gallery and Dazzled by Twilight in Forks.
The building had been empty since Dazzled by Twilight closed in 2011.
About 16 years ago, the Odd Fellows lodge deeded the Forks building over to the city of Forks, which worked with the Rainforest Players to manage the building as a community arts center.
The adjacent Olympic Pharmacy site is privately owned by Alaska Financial of Anchorage, Alaska, and was listed for sale for $74,500.
Matheny said the funding for the purchase would come from money in the Rainforest Arts Center's savings account and insurance proceeds, with more fundraising to be done.
If the sale is finalized and if the city of Forks accepts the gift, the lot will be deeded to the city to be used to enhance the new building, either to provide a larger footprint, as parking, or other ways a larger property could improve the space, Matheny said.
The IOOF hall and property were insured by the city for $3.7 million, and it agreed on a settlement for $2.64 million to cover the cost of replacement, including code upgrades.
The building seated 150 people in the main theater hall, which could be converted to a ballroom for community dances and other events, and a secondary room had space for 50 people.
A square dance group used the building to hold weekly dance classes, and a spinning class kept 14 spinning wheels and looms on the third floor — all lost in the fire.
One of the building's two small retail spaces was empty, and the other was occupied by Tienda Latina, a small Latin American merchandise and grocery store.
The city of Forks cannot officially acknowledge the the arts council's efforts until the deal is done, said Rod Fleck, city attorney and planner for Forks.
“Once they get a deal, we can queue it up, but until then it's simply a transaction between private parties,” Fleck said.
The architects hired by the city, NAC of Seattle, have been told that the second property may be available for use in planning the new theater and community center, he said.
He added that, with deadlines getting close to move into the next phase of planning, the city will need to know very soon if the property will be available.
Fleck said that two or three designs are expected to be ready for public and city council review on or about Sept. 27.
The city's timeline includes a construction bid selection in January, and the opening of the new building between September 2014, and January 2015, Fleck said in an earlier interview.
The fire destroyed 20 years' worth of the community theater's costumes and props, Matheny said.
Fundraising show Aug. 29-31
Rainforest Players listed losses of at least $14,000 worth of electronics, sound and lighting equipment and all of the improvements they made to the stage and theater area.
As a fundraising effort to help replace some of the equipment and costumes lost in the fire, the Rainforest Players will present a dramatized reading of A. A. Milne's "Mr. Pim Passes By."
Milne is best known as the creator of the character, Winnie the Pooh, but also wrote many popular plays in the early 20th century.
The 1920s era comedy centers around the character of Mr. Pim, who appears out of nowhere and turns a proper British household into utter turmoil.
Rainforest Players member Lela Kriebel directs the production.
“Mr. Pim Passes By” will show at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29-31 in the conference room at the state Department of Natural Resources, 411 Tillicum Lane, Forks.
Admission is by donation.
Donations for the Rainforest Players equipment replacement and construction fund can also be made at any First Federal, Matheny said.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction published Aug. 23, 2013:
West Olympic Council for the Arts, doing business as the Rainforest Arts Center, in partnership with the Rainforest Players, put in an offer to purchase the site of the former Olympic Pharmacy at the corner of Division Street and Forks Avenue in Forks, said Ellen Matheny, a board member of Rainforest Players, which has representation on the arts center board.
Money is coming in part from the Rainforest Arts Center savings and insurance proceeds, with more fundraising to be done, Matheny said.
A story on Page A1 of Aug. 21's Clallam County edition erroneously said the Rainforest Players made the offer and that the Rainforest Players are funding the purchase.
Last modified: August 22. 2013 8:37PM