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Arts Center replacement project plans discussed

A new building to replace the burnt down, city-owned Rainforest Arts Center could be under construction as early as mid-2014.

That’s if a draft plan is eventually approved by the Forks City Council for rebuilding as presented by City Attorney/Planner Rod Fleck at the council meeting held Monday evening, Jan. 28.

Fleck handed out a draft time line of proposed meetings aimed at gaining community input on what to do with the city-owned lot located at Forks Ave. and Division Street. He called the plan an “aggressive” one with a goal of sooner than later having a new building for the community.

The city holds a $3.7 million insurance policy for the historic circa 1925 IOOF Hall that stood on the lot before burning down in the October fire that also leveled the adjacent Olympic Pharmacy building, which was owned by an Alaska-based finance company.

 Fleck said the majority of community input so far favors constructing a replacement building.

The big picture of what functions the building should provide to the community would be a focus of the meetings, with construction details to be provided later by consulting architects and engineers, he said.

Fleck told the council a preliminary focus group is planning to meet on Feb. 14.

A “wake” for the Rainforest Arts Center is set for Friday, Feb. 22 he said, followed by a Rainforest Arts Center “stakeholders” meeting on Feb. 27.

Input from the February meetings would be brought to a joint meeting of the Forks Chamber of Commerce and the West End Business  & Professional Association on Wednesday, March 13. The meeting would be a “hands-on” one, Fleck said, where attendees would participate, rather than just listen to a speaker.

On March 26 a community-wide meeting would be held at Peninsula College to gather additional input on the replacement project.

Concurrently during the time frame for the preliminary community meetings, the city government would work on figuring out costs and other financial and legal details on the city’s side for the project, with the goal of presenting to the council by early April a resolution to move forward with rebuilding.

Once the vision for the rebuild is complete the plan would be further refined with input from students and staff at the University of Washington’s College of Architecture and College of the Environment School of Forestry.

Fleck said unsolicited inquires about the project have come from the Seattle-based colleges. 

By the end of May a mock-up of the proposed structure would be presented to the community.

Tied into the University of Washington connection is the possibility of the reconstructed RAC being a showcase pilot project for design of sustainable buildings using Northwest lumber. He said the project might also gain the services of a world-class Seattle architecture firm at a cost of pennies to the dollar as part of the pilot project.

Grants might also provide additional funding for construction of the interior facilities of the building tied into performing arts and other similar uses. 

If the draft time line becomes a reality, from summer 2013 into fall 2013 the details of the rebuilding plan would be developed and finalized, with bids being accepted for construction by the end of the year. A bid opening would be held in January 2014 and construction would start later that year.

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