Forks arts center groundbreaking ceremony coming Saturday; construction set to begin Tuesday
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A groundbreaking is set Saturday for Forks' new Rainforest Art Center, depicted in this artist's rendering by NAC Architecture.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

FORKS — More than 18 months after the Rainforest Art Center burned to the ground, construction is about to begin on its replacement.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the $2.1 million arts center at the corner of North Forks Avenue and East Division Street is set for 12:15 p.m. Saturday.

Construction will begin Tuesday, when fences will go up around the site.

A grand opening celebration is scheduled for April 18, 2015 — exactly one year from today.

Saturday's ceremony will cap the RainFest's Umbrella Parade, which is planned at noon on sidewalks down Forks Avenue.

Children will take part in the ceremony before heading to an Easter egg hunt at Tillicum Park, said Rod Fleck, city planner and attorney.

Mayor Bryon Monohon, several City Council members and other city officials are expected to attend.

Excavation will be done by Gary Priest Excavating Inc., and the primary construction bid was won by Hoch Construction, both of Port Angeles.

“This is one of the first projects constructed in the normal construction season in a long time,” Fleck said.

However, weather-related construction delays are still a possibility, he said.

October 2012 fire

The arts center in the former International Order of Odd Fellows hall at 35 N. Forks Ave. and the adjacent Olympic Pharmacy building, most recently occupied by the Dazzled by Twilight souvenir store, burned to the ground in an early morning fire Oct. 29, 2012.

The IOOF hall and property were insured by the city for $3.7 million, and the city received a settlement for $2.64 million to replace the lost structure.

The final design and construction of the building are not expected to exceed the budget set by the settlement amount, Fleck said.

A community fundraising effort resulted in the purchase of the Olympic Pharmacy property, and it was donated to the city to improve construction options for the new arts center.

The site of the former Olympic Pharmacy was owned by Alaska Financial Co. of Anchorage, Alaska, and listed for sale for $74,500.

Replicate functions

The original IOOF building was two stories. The new arts center will be only one story, but since the layout creates a more efficient use of the space, all of the uses the building was used for in the past will be replicated in fewer square feet, Fleck said.

Exterior surfaces will be finished with concrete shake shingles, glass and dark brick with bare-wood accents, while the interior is designed with primarily warm, natural wood finishes, he said.

A 1,000-square-foot commercial space will be located in one corner of the building. Proceeds from the rental of the space will go toward building maintenance.

About 15 years ago, the Odd Fellows organization deeded the Forks building to the city, which worked with the Rain­forest Players to manage the building as a community arts center.

The 1925 IOOF building had received $300,000 in improvements, mostly funded by community donations and grants.

The community theater troupe lost all of its costumes, props, electronics and lighting equipment.

The theater/ballroom seated 150 people, and a second room had space for 50 people.

Former uses

A square dance group held weekly dance classes, and a spinning class kept 14 spinning wheels and looms on the third floor — all lost in the fire.

There also were two street-level storefronts in the building.

One was occupied by Tienda Latina, a small Latin American merchandise and grocery store that opened in 1994, and the other was unoccupied.

For more information on this weekend's RainFest activities, see Page B4 in today's edition.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 18. 2014 1:09AM
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