Crews take soil samples in a lot near Front and Oak streets for a proposed Port Angeles Waterfront Center. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Crews take soil samples in a lot near Front and Oak streets for a proposed Port Angeles Waterfront Center. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles Waterfront arts center proceeding: Construction expected in August 2019

PORT ANGELES — Workers dug test holes for pilings as part of a geotechnical survey last week in a vacant lot at Front and Oak streets where seagulls bathe in pooled water and kites fly.

There the Port Angeles Waterfront Center will rise in cultural glory, with construction anticipated to begin by Aug. 1, 2019 and be completed by April 2021, a project organizer said last week.

Plans also are proceeding for companion buildings erected by the Feiro Marine Life Center and the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe, officials from the marine center and tribe said last week.

Waterfront Center board member Brooke Taylor of Port Angeles said the board will meet Sept. 13 to consider a schematic design, a document containing rough drawings of elevations and site plans for the 1.6-acre site.

“This would be a go- or no-go point in the process,” Taylor said Friday.

Taylor said he could offer few financial details of the project beyond an estimated price tag he said will exceed $20 million.

“That’s as far as I’m going to go,” he said. “We don’t know what the building cost is going to be.”

Taylor said that’s partly because it’s largely dependent on the depth requirements for the steel pilings.

“One reason cost estimates are premature at this point is that’s a major factor,” he said.

Plans call for 35,000-square-foot, two-story building.

The pilings will support a facility that will house 500-seat theater-performance hall with an hydraulically raised orchestra pit, a standard feature in performing arts centers, Taylor said, and a balcony that can be closed off for smaller shows.

It also will include a 300-seat banquet-events-conference area and a gallery.

“What we are learning is that the conference center and the events center are revenue positive, whereas the theater will be lucky to break even,” Taylor said.

Also on the parcel will be a newly located Feiro Marine Life Center, now situated at City Pier, which has a signed lease agreement to build at the site, Executive Director Melissa Williams said Friday.

“We are really excited to join up with them,” Williams said.

Elwha tribal officials are planning a rectangular shaped longhouse-style performing center at the site that will feature Salish art and include a giant mural on the Front-Street-facing south side, Enterprise CEO Michael Peters said Friday.

The geotechnical survey is “a key piece to finishing or getting into the final steps of the civil engineering part,” Peters said.

“Then we and the other partners can then start to work with architects and structural engineers about what it takes to build a certain building on each of those sites.”

“The three of us are working together on a monthly basis, talking about common elements, bot the governance of how we are going to share fundraising ideas, how we are going to work on those common things like ticketing, who mows the lawn.”

Workers from Krazan & Associates Inc. of Poulsbo visited the site last week, drilling 8-12 feet through fill and down about 40 feet before hitting firm ground that will anchor the pilings, Taylor said.

There was no archaeological evidence of human habitation, Taylor said.

“That was on everyone’s mind,” he said.

Field notes will be converted into tables, soil samples analyzed and a report produced that could have an impact on the project’s cost.

Water intrusion also was found at 8 feet, which could have an impact on the cost of the orchestra pit depending how extensive the water is, Taylor said.

Construction will be fueled by a $9.1 million bequest from the late Donna M. Morris to the Peninsula College Foundation to build the theater and the Waterfront Center gallery.

Board member Dorothy Field of Port Angeles donated $1.43 million to the Peninsula College Foundation to buy the parcel.

A fundraising effort conducted by Seattle consultant Daniel Johnson is under way to attract large donations.

Taylor said he could not give details about how well the effort is faring.

“They are basically telling major donors that these are the categories that go with particular naming rights, here’s what you get for $10 million, $5 million, $1 million, here’s what you get for half-a-million.

“We’re not giving them a building cost at this point because we’re not giving that to anybody,” Taylor said. “It’s a heavy lift, and there’s a lot of work to do.

“Where do you see yourself on that grid is the type of approach we are taking,” he said. “They are in the early stages of what they call the quiet part of fundraising. He’s been doing that for the last year.”

That phase will continue for at least another year, Taylor estimated.

Taylor announced in December 2016 that Chris Fidler would be hired as executive director.

Fidler spearheads the fundraising efforts.

A part-time administrative assistant also has been hired.

Taylor said he was not at liberty to divulge Fidler’s salary but said Fidler, who worked for a Washington, D.C., lobbying firm, has taken a substantial pay cut to make the center a success.

“We are being good stewards of the money and doing well in the fundraising arena,” Taylor said.

Feiro’s Melissa Williams said the marine center recently hired a consultant to develop a fundraising plan for its own new facility, which will replace its longtime home at nearby City Pier, and is drawing up a request-for-proposal for developing a conceptual design.

“The conceptual design will help nail down the cost,” Williams said. “A lot of people think the entire campus is a worthy cause to give to.

“It’s not just something we are looking forward to doing.

“We’ve already talked about things we could do for the community that involve all three of our expertise and all three of our spaces in addition to being something that will be greater than the sum of its parts.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected].

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