Chris Fidler, executive director of the Port Angeles Waterfront Center, told a business group Tuesday that construction of the center is on track to begin in August 2019. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Chris Fidler, executive director of the Port Angeles Waterfront Center, told a business group Tuesday that construction of the center is on track to begin in August 2019. (Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Angeles Waterfront Center fundraising passes 50 percent mark

PORT ANGELES — A Port Angeles Waterfront Center official laid out details Tuesday for the $45 million project, which lacks $20 million to reach its fundraising finish line.

Executive Director Chris Fidler told a Port Angeles Business Association breakfast meeting that the Front Street facility will generate $30 million in construction jobs.

The center is designed to include a warming kitchen for locally catered meals for up to 300 conference and event participants and house a performance hall acoustic system with a system of baffles and curtains “programmed to tune the room for any kind of event,” he told 30 meeting attendees.

Project fundraisers have generated 54 percent to 55 percent of the funding necessary to begin construction by August 2019, Fidler said.

“All things being equal, we’re looking forward to breaking ground in late August 2019, but it’s all subject to fundraising,” Fidler said.

“What happens is, a lot of money sits on the sidelines until [projects] cross the 50 percent mark.

“They want to see you make sufficient progress before they step into the arena.”

Foundations and businesses both inside and outside the area have expressed interest in the waterfront center, Fidler said.

“Those organizations that were interested to see if we are the genuine article now have proof that we are,” he said.

Funds for the project include an initial bequest of $9.1 million from the late Donna M. Morris for a performing arts center and $1.43 million from Dorothy Field of Port Angeles to purchase the land at the corner of West Front and North Oak streets.

Organizers have said construction will be completed by March 2021 on the 40,000-square-foot, two-story building.

Fidler said the center is designed with a performance hall that has 300 seats on the orchestra level and 150 seats in the balcony, which that can be visually closed off to maintain intimacy between performers and audiences at smaller shows.

Fidler said according to a survey of area tastes, the top request for programming at the center was country-western music.

“So, we want to offer light opera,” he said.

“We also want to offer country-western, because that’s what people said they’d like to see.”

“We will have, the day we open, booking for two years out for the performing arts center and the conference facility,” Fidler said.

“We have an active effort to market the new venue and populate it with performances by local [performers] and artists from outside the area,” he said.

“You can expect, in Year 3, somewhere around 140 nights of usage of this facility,” said Fidler, a Port Angeles High School graduate.

“That does not include setup, rehearsals and takedown.

“I believe, as a boy who grew up here, that this project is going to be transformational.”

Fidler was asked by a member of the audience how the center will attract customers to performances in an economically-challenged area.

“This is not a venue for a certain social strata,” he responded.

“This is an every-man and every-woman performing arts center.”

Fidler estimated the waterfront center staff would number between six and 12 employees.

The performing arts center will be located where a Black Ball Ferry parking lot is situated on an otherwise broad, vacant 1.6-acre parcel.

Asked about parking, Fidler said that 1,100 parking spaces are within a five-block radius of the waterfront center.

He said city officials are considering a proposal to sell a parking lot across the street from the Waterfront Center in exchange for a promise to build a parking structure.

City Manager Nathan West, also a member of the Waterfront Center board, said later Tuesday in an email that Eric Dupar of First Street Plaza LLC has the first right of refusal on the purchase of his property by Dupar’s construction of a parking garage.

“At this time we have not received a proposal from First Street Plaza LLC for this purpose, but we are aware that they are actively working on such a proposal and hope to have it to the City for consideration in the very near future,” West said in the email.

The capacity falls between the 1,200 seats provided in the Port Angeles High School Performing Arts Center and, at Peninsula College, the 130 seats at Maier Hall and 260 seats at the Little Theater, he said.

Fidler said other area regional performing arts center executive directors have assured him the Waterfront Center would “absolutely not” be competing with them and in fact would attract acts that would start their tours in Victoria and stop in Port Angeles on their way to Seattle and other Puget Sound venues, and vice versa.

Amenities for a conference-events center include a warming kitchen tailored to area caterers who were consulted about their needs for serving event participants.

The freight elevator is located near the kitchen, a professional grade commercial dishwasher will be installed and the center will purchase its own tableware to make it easier for caterers and cut down on per-plate costs for meals, Fidler said.

Fidler said ground leases are being prepared for two other tenants of the property, the Feiro Marine Life Center and the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe.

Fidler said tribal officials want to pursue building a “contemporary interpretation of a coastal native longhouse” with a “wall of glass” that will look out over the waterfront and be built directly west of the Waterfront Center.

Tribal officials did not return calls for comment Tuesday.

What is now the Feiro Marine Life Center at City Pier tentatively would be called the Marine Discovery Center once it moves, Feiro Executive Director Melissa Williams said Tuesday.

The Discovery Center would include the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary visitor center and foundation, which would move at least part of its operations from The Landing mall on Railroad Avenue, Williams said.

Feiro has raised $150,000 for conceptual design of the building and has set a Dec. 7 deadline for requests for proposal, Williams said.

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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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