City official: Purchase of waterfront property in Port Angeles hinges on securing tenants
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Joy Bebee of Keizer, Ore., examines a fish tank at the Feiro Marine Life Center in Port Angeles on Thursday. — Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — Neeser Construction Inc. is waiting to line up tenants before purchasing waterfront property at Front and Oak streets for a three-story, 33,500-square-foot marine science and conference center, a city official said Thursday.

The company's pre-application building plans to the city show the Feiro Marine Life Center housed in at least 13,335 square feet of the 33,500-square-foot building compared with Feiro's present 3,500-square-foot City Pier site.

Feiro Director Deborah Moriarty, Neeser Project Administrator Gary Donnelly and Olympic Lodge owner Tod McClaskey Jr. — who owns the waterfront property — did not return calls for comment Thursday.

Anchorage, Alaska-based Neeser is trying to nail down commitments from tenants before buying the 1.96-acre parcel, Nathan West, city community and economic development director, said Thursday.

“Based on what Neeser has communicated to the city of Port Angeles, they are trying to get all of their tenants lined up so that they have a relationship in place with those tenants prior to moving forward,” he said.

City officials are considering a lease of between 5,000 and 10,000 square feet of convention center space in the building from Neeser to increase off-season tourism, West said.

Neeser is being required to submit a business plan and proof to the city that the square footage is being leased, that revenue is being generated and that the revenue is covering the cost of the facility, West said.

“If the city is going to be able to move forward with the conference center space lease, we need to make sure the project pencils out and that [Neeser] has the necessary engagement of the tenants to make the facility a success,” he said.

“That is certainly a prerequisite for the city of Port Angeles.

“We are one tenant in the mix, and we are hoping [Neeser] is arranging for multiple tenants and that we have a viable facility at the end of the day.”

Donnelly said Tuesday that construction on the project is scheduled to begin in July.

He declined to identify any tenants.

The building plans cover phase one of a two-phase project.

The Feiro facilities would be located on two floors of the three-story phase one building.

The first floor also includes 4,829 square feet of conference room space along with retail space and a restaurant with patio dining.

The first floor would include exhibit space and a room with “Science on a Sphere.”

The room-sized device, developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, displays planetary data onto a sphere 6 feet in diameter and is “analogous to a giant animated globe,” according to http://tinyurl.com/pdn-sphere.

About half of the second floor includes 7,085 square feet for Feiro research, administration and classrooms; a restaurant/bar with an outdoor dining area facing the Strait of Juan de Fuca; and a 720-foot-long deck facing the Strait.

The third floor is a “mechanical loft,” according to the plans.

Donnelly, who has declined to comment on the cost of phase one, said in January that a final agreement between McClaskey and Neeser to purchase the property had been reached and has repeatedly said since that the sale is a sure thing.

Construction on phase two could begin in July 2015, Donnelly said in an earlier interview.

The building plans show that phase two consists of a 35,000- to 40,000-square-foot “marine science education center.”

McClaskey's parcel is listed for $2 million in the real estate Multiple Listing Service.

A deed transferring ownership from McClaskey to Neeser had not been filed with the county Auditor's Office as of Thursday.

The project will require a building permit but not a shoreline permit because it is more than 200 feet from the shoreline, city Planning Manager Sue Roberds said.

The property, an abandoned log yard McClaskey purchased in 2008 for $1.3 million, has been targeted over the past decade for convention center and condominium projects that never reached fruition.

They included proposals in 1993 and 1998 by Shilo Inns; a 156-room hotel and conference center proposed by Randal Ehm, of Seattle and San Diego, in 2004; and a 2006 proposal by Harry Dorssers for an aquatic center, then condominiums with retail businesses.

Ehm and Dorssers also provided pre-application design materials.

“The key difference is [they] were in shoreline jurisdiction and had far more permitting obligations to meet,” West said.

Neeser officials can apply for a building permit for property the company does not own if the property owner is aware of the application, Roberds said.

Permission also must be obtained from the Port of Port Angeles for water intake from a nearby port dock for Feiro's aquarium.

Roberds said she expects the building permit will include plans that are “very similar” to those depicted in the pre-application drawings.

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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: April 24. 2014 10:01PM
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