Brooke Taylor, chairman of the Port Angeles Waterfront Center, talks with Port Angeles Business Association members following his presentation Tuesday on the efforts to build a new performing arts center in Port Angeles. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Progress made on Port Angeles performing arts center

PORT ANGELES — Plans for the Port Angeles Waterfront Center are moving forward as its nonprofit hires an interim executive director, chooses an architect firm and hopes to include a conference center in the future performing arts center, said Brooke Taylor, the chairman of the committee creating the center.

Taylor told about two dozen people during the Port Angeles Business Association meeting Tuesday that Chris Fidler would serve as the interim executive director starting in January.

“We found as soon as we started working closely with the architects, we needed a full-time executive person to help us,” he said. “We are excited to have [Fidler] on the team.”

The $15 million to $20 million performing arts center, planned for the dormant Oak Street property downtown, is made possible by a pair of donations.

Left $9 million

The late Donna M. Morris of Port Angeles left $9 million to the Peninsula College Foundation to develop the performing arts center. That gift was followed by a $1.43 million donation from Port Angeles resident Dorothy Field for the purchase of the 1.6-acre parcel at the northwest corner of Front and Oak streets.

The performing arts center will be designed by LMN Architects of Seattle, the firm that designed Benaroya Hall in Seattle and the Science and Technology Building on the Peninsula College campus.

One of the design aspects that is known at this point is that the building will be built of wood to showcase the city’s timber history and industry.

“It represents the history of this community,” Taylor said.

Talks are in progress about including a conference center in the performing arts center.

“The will says, ‘Thou shall build a performing arts center,’” Taylor said. “Our goal is to leverage those two incredible gifts to make it more than just a performing arts center.”

The goal, Taylor said, is for the center to be an anchor for downtown, as well as a destination performance venue.

Deputy Mayor Cherie Kidd called the center “an answer to prayer for the whole community.”

“In Port Angeles, we have a real void for a conference center,” she said. “We’ve done the best with what we had.”

The performing arts center board doesn’t plan to compete with the other venues in Port Angeles. Taylor speculated it could seat 600 to 800 people, though the capacity hasn’t been decided yet.

The development is in its first phase, which includes a written assessment of what the community needs and supports, he said.

That phase should end in March and include cost estimates of options.

“At that point, we will make some strategic decisions and move on to the next phase: designing what this facility will look like,” Taylor said.

He didn’t know when groundbreaking would be, but he anticipated it would be at least a year. The parcel will continue to operate as a parking lot until construction begins, he said.

In her will, Morris had directed that the committee set aside an unspecified amount of money as an endowment, which would help fund keeping the performing arts center running, he said.

That amount could be about $2 million or $3 million.

“We’ll set aside as much as we can to make sure we can pay our overhead,” he said.

Taylor anticipates the center will be eligible for city lodging tax dollars, which would help with funding.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected].

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