Northwest Maritime Center welcome center in the works

Renovated space will serve as information hub for activities

Joel Arrington, boat shop manager for the Northwest Maritime Center, looks at the bow of a boat he cut in half that will be an exhibit piece in the new Welcome Center being constructed in what was formerly the retail shop. The new space will have a smaller retail space with the rest of the floorplan devoted to exhibits. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

Joel Arrington, boat shop manager for the Northwest Maritime Center, looks at the bow of a boat he cut in half that will be an exhibit piece in the new Welcome Center being constructed in what was formerly the retail shop. The new space will have a smaller retail space with the rest of the floorplan devoted to exhibits. (Steve Mullensky/for Peninsula Daily News)

PORT TOWNSEND — The Northwest Maritime Center is undergoing a $575,000 upgrade that will see its Chandlery retail space renovated and new wayfaring signs installed as part of an effort to better engage with locals and visitors.

“It’s more welcoming to people and will be a better way to connect with them,” said Communications Director Molly McCarthy.

The decision to rethink the space came after surveys and conversations with visitors revealed that people had trouble navigating the NWMC campus, were unclear about its mission and were unaware of many of its programs. Many — including locals — don’t realize the NWMC produces the annual Wooden Boat Festival, which has been held in Port Townsend since 1978.

The space has been renamed the Welcome Center, and while it will still sell nautically themed clothing and other items, it will also function as an information hub to learn about the NWMC’s activities and Port Townsend’s maritime heritage. Among the exhibits will be a topographical map of North Olympic Peninsula waterways and interactive elements like signal flags on a rope pulley.

The main entry on Water Street will remain on the north side of the building, but it has been moved slightly to the east and will have an awning over it. The doors will be ADA-compliant as will a dressing room inside. Signs will more clearly communicate to visitors where they are and direct them to where they want to go. No more standing at the foot of the stairs wondering whether to go up or turn left.

NWMC sought as much as possible to keep the Chandlery’s footprint, but very clearly connect the feel and design to Port Townsend’s history and character.

“We wanted to re-use and repurpose the space and utilize local contractors,” Chief Operating Officer Katie Oman said.

A team from architecture firm Mithun’s Seattle office handled the design and Weatherhead Experience Design was in charge of exhibit planning. Clark Construction based on Bainbridge Island was the general contractor, and Port Townsend Sails and the Shipwrights Coop produced the fabric elements. Port Townsend’s Whale Song Signs is creating a compass rose on the wooden floor.

If looked at from above, McCarthy said, the space will look like a sextant.

The project is being funded by the Friends of the Northwest Maritime Center, the Washington State Historical Society’s Heritage Capital Projects program and a grant from the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area.

Coinciding with renovation of the Chandlery is repair of the beach that was heavily damaged during a king tide event on Dec. 28, 2018. The storm surge exposed the foundation of a concrete walkway and stairs that lead from the NWMC to the beach. The FEMA-funded repair involved pouring a new concrete foundation, excavating sand and gravel from the upper beach, and beach replenishment and placing new boulders to help the beach from further damage.

The new Welcome Center is scheduled to open the first week of May, McCarthy said. Details about the event will be released closer to the date.

The go along with its building renovation, NWMC has also welcomed an influx of new volunteers, “but we would always love to have more,” McCarthy said.

Those interested in learning about volunteer opportunities are invited to attend an informational session at 4 p.m. April 3 at the NWMC, 431 Water St.

For information, go to tinyurl.com/4h6twz33.

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Reporter Paula Hunt can be reached at paula.hunt@peninsuladailynews.

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