By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News
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That question drove a recent two-hour discussion about remodeling the aging center in Carrie Blake Park.
“As a member of this community, why would I buy in to roll up my sleeves, put in my effort, put in my dollars so that the city could rent it to make a profit?” Jodi Minker, administrative assistant for the Sequim-Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, asked at the Thursday gathering.
“If you’re using it to bring in tourism or as a destination wedding venue, the average citizen isn’t going to see how that benefits them.”
City Councilman Ken Hays and volunteer project coordinator Pat Johansen set out earlier this year to see what can be done with the building.
Once regularly used for community gatherings and performing arts exhibits, it now sits empty for most of the year.
“Part of the goal is to have this be a true community facility,” Hays said.
Preliminary concepts developed for the project include adding large windows on the south side of the building for natural lighting, an outdoor cooking patio, trelliswork with flowering vines, a porte cochère, a new facade and a new metal roof with solar panels to reduce the city’s utility cost.
But many at the meeting, like Minker, questioned how it would be used.
“If you want the community to fund it, then you need to make it a community facility,” said Joe Borden, a Chamber of Commerce member.
The 8,000-square-foot convention center was built by the Sequim Valley Lions Club in honor of member Guy Cole, former owner of Cole’s Jewelry, and donated to the city in 1982.
“We are now at the point where this facility is only used once or twice a year,” Johansen said. “It has sort of a tired reputation.”
Concepts have been developed to seat up to 300 people in a convention configuration, or 240 as a dining venue, for weddings or gala dinners.
But, as it is now, users of the building — which has stained and torn curtains, old tile floors and limited windows — put in hours of decoration to make it feel hospitable, some said.
“They come in, they look at the building and they decorate for hours to make it usable,” said Breva Funston, an area weddings and events planner.
Tawana Borden said Sequim Irrigation Festival organizers stopped using the building for events because of the amount of decorating required to hold functions there.
“It just got to the point where we didn’t have the energy to do all that work and had to start looking at other spaces,” she said.
Hays led an effort two years ago to revamp the building, working for a time with the Jamestown S’Klallam tribe.
Though the tribe eventually dropped the building makeover, Hays said some of the work it commissioned, like a review of the building, could be useful in the current remodel effort.
Hays said the building still has assets. It’s structurally sound, and the heating and air conditioning systems are fairly new, he said.
“To me, the building is worth preserving just because it is substantial,” he said.
An architect by trade, Hays also noted that the plain shape of the rectangular building would make it easier to remodel.
Johansen expressed hope the tribe would return to being a partner on the project.
She said the Olympic View Community Foundation has preliminarily agreed to oversee finances for the renovation, and the Sequim School District may be able to lend students from its building trades program to provide some of the labor.
Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at email@example.com.