The Public Development Authority plans to turn Building 305 at Fort Worden into the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center in Makers Square. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

The Public Development Authority plans to turn Building 305 at Fort Worden into the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center in Makers Square. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Building 305 to be central to Makers Square in Fort Worden

The plan is for the building to be renovated into the predominate structure in a group of at least nine buildings that will be called Makers Square. It would house workshop, classroom and studio spaces.

PORT TOWNSEND — The western part of Fort Worden’s campus is destined to be an arts and cultural center with Building 305 as its centerpiece.

The plan is for the building to be renovated into the predominant structure in a group of at least nine buildings that will be called Makers Square.

During meetings seeking input from the public on the $7 million project, people seemed enthusiastic about Makers Square’s potential, said Dave Robison, executive director of the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center Public Development Authority, which plans to create the hub.

“What we heard was a lot of excitement and enthusiasm about the potential for Makers Square and for Fort Worden having an expanded presence for visual and hands-on arts across the spectrum,” Robison said.

If “things go well,” Robison said, renovations of Building 305 could start as early as next year.

The public development authority (PDA) has secured about $4 million in grants for the project and is looking to fund the rest through public and private sources, he said.

Building 305 is in the design phase, with the PDA asking the public for suggestions. The goal now is to get a building design that would facilitate programming with the building.

“We’re not at the point of picking programming,” said Megan Claflin, spokeswoman. “We’re designing how the building will function.”

The arts center would need classroom, gallery and studio space but would need to be flexible, she said.

For those who want to learn more about the project, the PDA is planning another meeting in September. Robison said a date hasn’t yet been set.

The PDA took over the management of the campus portion of Fort Worden State Park in May 2014 — with Washington State Parks overseeing the remainder of the park.

Built in 1905 to be the Quartermaster Storehouse at the U.S. Army Coast Artillery fort, Building 305 is now a maintenance building for Washington State Parks. It is located across the street from the two-story Building 204 barracks and behind the Guardhouse.

With its designation as a National Historic Landmark, there is little the PDA can do to the outside of the building, but the inside would be completely renovated, Claflin said.

An elevator would provide access to different parts of the 18,620-square-foot structure that would be devoted to classrooms, galleries, studios and performance spaces supporting simultaneous programming.

Building 305 is one of 10 underused or unused buildings around Makers Square that would be renovated over the next five to 10 years to create the PDA’s vision.

The only two buildings that would maintain their current functions are the Madrona MindBody Institute at its northeast corner and the Port Townsend School of the Arts in its center.

The area, which is now geared toward vehicular traffic, would become pedestrian-oriented, although it could still be used for parking at large events put on by Centrum, an arts organization based at Fort Worden

The goal is for the western part of campus to be filled with vibrant arts, with artisans working in shops, learning opportunities and chances to buy art, Claflin said.

In Makers Square, guests could see digital art, furniture-making, visual arts, galleries and studios, she said.

Claflin said there has been talk of a new building that could function as a place for glass blowing or ceramics on the footprint of the former Building 307.

Claflin said the PDA is restricted from adding new buildings to the campus, unless it’s on the footprint of an old building or serves some purpose the other buildings can’t handle.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5550, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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