Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons tells the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce about the Gateway Plaza project, set for construction this summer. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons tells the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce about the Gateway Plaza project, set for construction this summer. (Jesse Major/Peninsula Daily News)

Port Townsend readying to transform ‘sea of asphalt’ into park

Gateway Plaza planned for space in front of visitor center

PORT TOWNSEND — The city of Port Townsend is preparing to transform the “sea of asphalt” in front of the Port Townsend Visitor Center on Sims Way into the city’s newest park, which will be known as Gateway Plaza.

Port Townsend City Manager David Timmons told The Chamber of Jefferson County audience Monday that the park will feature Russell Jaqua’s final sculpture, “For Willene,” and that construction will start in mid-July. Construction is expected to be complete by late October.

That sculpture was donated to the city before Jaqua’s death in 2006. Jaqua also created the City Hall railing and library fire doors.

“We’re taking that big sea of asphalt and converting it into a place we can be proud of,” Timmons said.

The plaza replaces the now-demolished blue building that previously sat along East Sims Way between Benedict Street and Decatur Street and served as the visitor center from the mid-1990s through 2008.

The chamber had previously publicly offered the building for free in hopes of its adaptive reuse elsewhere but no one able to arrange for its private removal came forward.

Timmons said the $780,000 project will be paid for through lodging tax funds. The current engineers estimate is $653,000, with the rest of the budget going to design.

The city goes out to bid on the project today and Jefferson PUD will begin electrical work at the site soon, he said. That work will be done by the end of May.

The city will open bids in June and construction should be finished by the end of October.

Timmons said that the site is currently a free-for-all without direction for traffic.

“We were out there one day planning this and to see the care drive in and out all randomly, you take your life into your hands,” Timmons said.

The park will provide additional parking and create a public space on the triangular piece of city property. It will include landscaping, 275 feet of sidewalk, benches and an electric charging station.

He said the city will also add a public restroom at the park, though the city is still looking at designs.

Timmons said the city will add traffic control to prohibit left turns onto East Sims Street from Decatur Street.

The “Old Blue” visitor center was demolished May 2 to make way for the park. The next day volunteers from Naval Magazine Indian Island helped remove debris from the site.

Timmons said the readerboard at the site will stay where it is.

“We don’t want to touch that because it’s grandfathered under the DOT (state Department of Transportation) regulations,” he said.

Timmons said the city has considered whether to transition from having a banner hang over the highway at that point to having a series of vertical banners on the side of the road.

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Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at jmajor@peninsuladailynews.com.

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