Marine center in Port Angeles eyes July start for building

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Neeser Construction Inc. and city officials met last week in a building-permit pre-application conference, a likely prelude to the Anchorage, Alaska, company applying for a permit to build a marine science-conference center complex on the city's waterfront.

Neeser Project Administrator Gary Donnelly met with him for about an hour Jan. 27, city Community and Economic Development Director Nathan West said Thursday.

“Typically, we do see a building permit application following a pre-application meeting,” West said.

“They indicated a July start time to build,” he added.

Donnelly did not respond to emailed questions about the project.

“Nome was not built in a day,” he quipped Wednesday in an email, adding that he was on vacation.

Oak Street property

On Jan. 9, Donnelly announced Neeser's plans to build a 63,000- to 67,000-square-foot, two-phase, two-building complex at the corner of Front and Oak streets on a 1.96-acre parcel commonly known as the Oak Street property.

It would include a new Feiro Marine Life Center, allowing it to move from City Pier, as well as a 5,800-square-foot shared conference center and space for retail activity.

A 3,000-square-foot conference-center meeting room capable of seating between 250 and 300 participants would be leased to the city under a memo of agreement.

Neeser officials are reviewing a draft of the agreement, West said, adding that the city does not intend to manage or operate the meeting room.

Donnelly also said Jan. 9 that a “final agreement” had been reached on the sale of the parcel, owned by Olympic Lodge owner Tod McClaskey Jr. and listed for $2 million.

In a Jan. 23 interview, Donnelly predicted the property could be sold by mid-February, but a warranty deed indicating a sale was completed had not been filed with the county Auditor's Office as of the end of the business day Thursday.

Donnelly also has not discussed the cost to build the project, how it will be financed or who will finance it but has been confident the project would be built.

McClaskey did not return calls requesting comment this week.

West said the pre-application conference covered Phase 1 of the project, a 27,000-square-foot building that Donnelly has said would include temporary space for Feiro operations, the conference center and retail space for marine-related businesses such as a seaside restaurant or kayak rentals.

Donnelly has said construction would begin in 2015 on Phase 2, a 36,000-40,000-square-foot building that could consist of covered space and open-air exhibit space and which Donnelly has called a “science building.”

“Phase 2 will happen,” he said Jan. 9.

Donnelly also said the sale was on hold pending soils testing of the site, which consists of fill.

He said it was to be conducted around the end of January. West did not know whether testing had occurred.

Neeser was named as a “potential landlord” for the property in a July 16 memo to the City Council on the project.

Cultural resources

In an Oct. 22 email obtained by the Peninsula Daily News under a state Public Records Act request, West responded to a request from Donnelly for information on “cultural resources” of an archaeological nature in Port Angeles.

At the time, there was more than one site being considered as a new home for Feiro, now located in cramped quarters at City Pier, and a conference center.

“None of the preferred sites . . . are considered areas of high probability” for cultural resources, West wrote.

He added that at least three historic surveys show the high water mark was south of First Street, indicating the Oak Street property once was under water.

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, which has its office in The Landing mall, also is eyeing the site for a possible new headquarters, but sanctuary Deputy Superintendent Kevin Grant said Jan. 23 that relocation to the Oak Street property “remains to be seen.”

The federal General Services Administration will help sanctuary officials choose a site that meets the headquarters' needs, Grant said.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 06. 2014 8:01PM
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