PORT ANGELES — A foundation newly based in Sequim with family ties to a former publishing giant has donated $1 million toward completing construction of the Field Arts and Events Hall in Port Angeles, and it could begin anew in August and be completed by mid-2023.
The contribution by the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation, headed by M. Lee McGraw, was announced Tuesday during an update on the $50 million project at a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting.
“It put tremendous amount of wind in our sails,” said Field Center Executive Director Steve Raider-Ginsburg, who gave the presentation with the project director Chris Fidler.
The arts center board of directors is meeting later this month to determine when construction will start up again.
“We are eagerly anticipating that and looking at opening in 2023, in the first quarter to late spring of 2023,” Raider-Ginsburg said.
McGraw, a new Sequim resident and performing arts center enthusiast who moved to Clallam County in 2021, is the great-granddaughter of James H. McGraw, who founded McGraw Hill Inc.
McGraw Hill Financial later became S&P Global. McGraw Hill, a global leader in educational content and digital platforms, was purchased by Platinum Equity in 2021 for $4.5 billion. M. Lee McGraw’s grandmother is the late Elizabeth McGraw.
The contribution came about from a chance meeting between M. Lee McGraw — a former Friday Harbor and Punta Gorda, Fla., resident — and Corby Somerville, the husband of Field Hall Board member Jeannie Martin, in the Port Angeles Post Office parking lot.
“It happened for a reason,” McGraw, the foundation’s president and trustee, said Tuesday. “Things just happened for a reason.”
A Lupus patient, she had driven to the post office with her husband, Van Lupo, early last summer on one of the few occasions she has been in public during the pandemic.
While sitting in the parking lot in her and her husband’s Porsche, Somerville drove up in his, then walked over to talk to her about hers while her husband was mailing parcels.
“He’s not only a Porsche owner, he lives in my neighborhood, he’s in my [homeowners association],” she said.
She gave Somerville her old business card as president of the Harborside Center for The Arts in Punta Gorda, a performing arts center she was helping get off the ground.
“He said, wouldn’t you know, my wife is on the board of the Field Hall Arts Center,” McGraw said. “I said I’d love to know more.”
What she learned, she liked.
She met Raider-Ginsburg.
“That man’s infectious enthusiasm known no bounds,” McGraw said.
“All the right things clicked for me.”
That included her response to a tour of the unfinished building, the shell and mechanical core of which were completed while “nothing has really been done inside,” Fidler said Tuesday.
A pandemic-related fundraising drought forced a hiatus in construction in January-February 2021, leaving enough for McGraw to envision the future — and to hearken to her own past efforts in Florida.
“It was everything we had talked about as far as what we wanted in our building, the only thing different being the size,” she said.
“Their thinking was just the same as ours.”
Plans for the Punta Gorda facility called for an 800-seat auditorium. Field Hall’s Morris auditorium has 500 seats.
McGraw said she was impressed by the planned 1,200-square-foot retail art gallery featuring area artists, a retail coffee shop open during the day, the second-floor, 400-seat conference center, which includes a warming kitchen — and appreciated the separate meeting space that will be named the Elizabeth B. McGraw Foundation Room.
Offering views of the Olympics and the Strait of Juan de Fuca, it will host author readings, book signings and lectures.
“This well-appointed room also will host receptions, meetings, and service the community in ways that will complement the performing and visual arts,” said a Field Center press release about the donation.
Raider-Ginsburg said he was meeting later Tuesday with Seattle businesspeople via Zoom to discuss the conference center.
“It’s a big effort of ours to get people off the I-5 corridor out to the (North Olympic) Peninsula,” he said.
First Federal and the North Olympic Healthcare Network both have scheduled conference center space, Raider-Ginsburg added.
The price tag for the facility, located on a 1.6-acre parcel at the corner of Oak and Front streets, has increased from $45 million in October 2019 to $50 million.
Fidler said 87 percent of what is needed to complete the project, or $38 million, has been raised. Seventy-five percent had been generated when construction was paused, he said.
Less than 1 percent of proceeds have been spent on fundraising.
Unlike public projects in which the lowest bidder is chosen, arts center organizers employed a collaborative design-build process, putting out a request for proposal “and selecting the best architect that money could buy,” Fidler said.
He said 21 percent of the contingency budget has been spent and the project is $422,000 under budget.
“It’s pretty much block-and-tackle from this point on,” he said.
Fidler said $11.3 million has been spent directly to trades on the Peninsula and the remainder of $19.8 million in hard costs to trades in other areas of Western Washington.
Raider-Ginsburg said in an email later Tuesday that about 15 full-time and 20 part-time workers will be employed at the center.
Tickets to performances are expected to cost between $10 and $125.
The 1.6-acre waterfront parcel, collectively purchased with a $1.43 million donation from Dorothy Field — for whom the arts center is named — will include two other facilities that will comprise the Port Angeles Waterfront Center.
The campus will include a Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe cultural longhouse and the Marine Discovery Center, a Feiro Marine Life Center project which will include an aquarium and an aviary and replace its facility at City Pier.
“We are creating a campus of arts, business, culture and science,” Raider-Ginsburg said.
The project was prompted by a $9 million behest left to build a new performing arts center in Port Angeles by Donna M. Morris, who died in 2014.
Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at email@example.com.