PORT TOWNSEND — The Northwest Maritime Center has proposed to the Port of Port Townsend that the nonprofit maritime center manage the day-to-day operations of Point Hudson through a 50-year master lease, which would give the organization control over the maritime heritage campus and marina.
The proposal would cost $6 million and would be funded by donations to a fundraising campaign, which would begin if the port agrees to the plan.
Jake Beattie, executive director of the maritime center, said that over the past year and a half, a group of 30 volunteers and staff members set out to redefine Point Hudson.
The plan’s aim is to fulfill Point Hudson’s potential as an essential part of the Port Townsend historical waterfront, focus its connection to marine trades, and create a campus for experiential learning and marine-related events and festivals, Beattie said.
“The reasons for the proposal,” according to Beattie, “are the issues that the port is currently experiencing: the state of port finances, the replacement of the jetty, and deferred maintenance throughout the county.
“How much of their problem can we solve for them? We don’t want them to go into debt, raise taxes or rates, or have to sell it.”
According to the plan, the maritime center would pay the port $3.5 million upfront, while committing to $1 million in capital improvements and $350,000 in annual lease payments that would give the maritime center a 50-year lease.
It would include assumption of responsibility for ongoing maintenance and nearly $4 million in deferred maintenance, and a 15 percent share of new income improvements.
Under the proposal, the maritime center would assume management of the entire campus. This includes the Point Hudson Marina with its 44 slips, 700 feet of linear floats and haul out pier and the Maritime Heritage Corridor comprised of the Puget Sound Express building, the Schooner Martha shop and the Armory, also known as the Sail Loft Building.
Also included in the plan is the SEA Marine boatyard and the vacant land known as the “Back 40,” as well as The Cupola House and adjacent vacant land, RV parking, the Commander’s Beach House, the Gathering Place building, the Administration Building that currently houses the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and Boarder Patrol, the Pygmy Boats building, the current moorage office and restaurant row with Shang Hai, Point Hudson Cafe and Doc’s Marina Grill.
“The plan helps ease the financial burdens of a property that’s been costing them [Port of Port Townsend] money for years,” Beattie said, “as well as allowing them to focus on other portions of their operations, namely the boat yard, and other opportunities they may be working on in the county.
“We could free up their resources to help make a larger difference for their primary motivator of economic development.”
“A Proposal for Point Hudson,” the 164-page document that details the plan, is available online to read at www.yourpointhudson.org.
Beattie said he presented the document to Port Commissioner Steve Tucker and Executive Director Sam Gibboney at the end of January.
Kimberly Matej, communications coordinator for the Port of Port Townsend, said the port on March 5 contracted with ECONorthwest to conduct an analysis on the feasibility of the proposal.
“Once this analysis is complete, the port commission will consider the proposal and analysis,” Matej said in a written statement. “Although we anticipate receiving the completed analysis soon, there is no date certain.”
Beattie said that it is “deceptively easy to look at Point Hudson as sort of a blank-slate real estate potential. It seems this happens at least every 10 years or so.
“The community says we kind of like Point Hudson the way it is,” he continued. “We like that it is water-related and historic.
Beattie said the plan would not maximize profits, but would be sustainable and exist inside of the community values that have been defined over 30 years through zoning and shoreline master plans.
“The maritime center isn’t growing its campus,” Beattie said. “It’s about curating the organizations and businesses that call Point Hudson home to make it a more unified and compelling experience for all.
“We don’t want to become a Mystic Seaport.”
The Museum of America and the Sea in Mystic, Conn., is the largest maritime museum in the United States.
One of the plan’s priorities is to obtain National Historic Landmark status for the site. That would protect historic buildings and make funding sources available to better facilitate future preservation efforts.
“The first project is to create a boardwalk on Jackson Street, the first phase in creating a walkway that rings the marina,” Beattie said.
“Next would be rehabbing the Point Hudson Boat Shop by putting in sprinklers and a ventilation system. This has been a boat shop for 40 years and it’s where the Wooden Boat Festival got it start. Many of the marine trades got their start there. We see it functioning as an incubator space for young trades businesses.
“There are also plans to add amenity improvements that have been discussed in the last 30 years, some business expansions and one new neighbor — the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe,” Beattie said. ”We’d like to have them tell their cultural and seafood entrepreneurial stories on the old Landfall restaurant site,” which is at 412 Water St.
Beattie also said that SEA Marine would like to expand its marine trades business and add eight to 10 new marine trades jobs.
One of the biggest changes in the plan is to move current recreational vehicle (RV) parking off the point and open up the area for the community to enjoy.
“We’re just relocating them, not increasing the number of spots,” he said.
According to Beattie, the Cupola House, which has been vacant for some time, would be repurposed into a visitors’ center, an integrated moorage and RV office, and a concierge for visiting boaters.
Beattie said that a capital campaign to raise $6 million would be a way to allow the public to get what they want.
“We don’t have a room full of money anywhere; there’s no vault. But we’ve raised significant funds before and, based on preliminary conversations, we are confident we can do it again,” he said.
“There are a lot of interesting conversations that this proposal has created,” Beattie said. “Lots of people want their fingerprints on this project.
“There are so many potential synergies, it’s hard to count them all,” Beattie said.
Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at [email protected].