Arts center petition presented to council

By Zorina Barker, Forum Correspondent


The proposed design of the new, $2.1 million Rainforest Arts Center dominated the Forks City Council session Oct. 14.


Birdie James had been collecting signatures on a petition against the proposed design for much of the prior week. She presented the petition, with more than 240 signatures of opposition to the council last week.


A handful of citizens joined her in opposition to the proposed design by NAC Architects of Seattle.


Most who spoke agreed it is a beautiful building, but it does not fit in Forks.


James said she felt, “The only choices the public was given was modern, very modern, and ultra modern.”


City Attorney/Planner Rod Fleck said the design has not been officially finalized.


Fleck did say the city is working under two main constraints: budget and maintenance


The city received a $2.6 million insurance settlement to replace the old arts center, originally a former International Order of Odd Fellows lodge which burned Oct. 29, 2012.


While many have objected to the steel siding in the rendition featured on the front of the Oct. 10 Forks Forum, Fleck said metal offers the city a chance to save in both construction and maintenance costs.


Ellen Matheney emphasized the importance of “a front that is unified on all surfaces; a building that makes people say ‘I want to go into that building.’” She further recognized and respected the difficulty in working in such a limited budget.


James provided the council with photos of various Cabela’s stores around the nation, pointing out the incorporation of natural materials into an appealing structure.


Sally Milici’s letter to the editor that ran in the Forum on Oct. 10 contained sentiments Sherry Baysinger identified with. Baysinger noted that the planning meetings had all been on Wednesdays which were a scheduling problem for her to attend. She also was looking for a “lodgy” type of façade.


Laurel Burtness, Rhonda Allen and Pat Stark all agreed, giving a nod to the Health First building as desirable. Pat stated she felt the design presented to the community was, “not inviting. It is cold.”


John Preston did not disagree with the others, but he was focused on the timeline.


“It would be nice to go into this with consensus from the town,” he said.


Mayor Bryan Monohon thanked the audience for their comments and was grateful for the Cabela’s ideas.


Fleck then broke down the budgetary concerns.


In looking at a budget that allows for $300 per square foot, the building should be 6,500 to 7,000 square feet to fit available finances.


Steel costs about $8 to $9 per square foot, Fleck said. Hardy plank wood would be $14, with brick over $20 and river rock more than $30 per square foot. 


Due to legal technicalities, there is no way to take some of the monies and set them aside for future use on maintaining the building. The city will be almost entirely dependent upon volunteers for the upkeep.


As such, a wood exterior is high maintenance material, Fleck said.


Fleck and Preston both discussed the problems that have arisen with the Transit Center; built with top quality cedar shakes that had to be completely replaced after 16 years.


Milici’s letter asked, “Where’s the wood?” Fleck explained that it was on the inside and under the overhangs where it would be protected.


“The interior of the proposed design is all wood with open wood beams,” Fleck said. “It is made to glow with wood which will be highlighted through high front windows.”


The RAC that burned down was maintained by the user groups in exchange for free usage; however that is not necessarily the way things will operate for this building.


It is the responsible thing to plan for a shortage of funds and manpower, Fleck said. Thus the exterior of the design that was presented on the cover of the Forum was short on wood.


Mayor Monohon emphasized the need for community input and asked the council members to pay attention to the needs and desires of their constituents.


Designs were presented for an informal poll to a joint meeting of the West End Business and Professionals Association and the Forks Chamber of Commerce yesterday morning, Wednesday – after the Forum’s press time.


Construction is expected to begin next spring with the hopes of opening the center by April 2015. 


Along with the multi-functional theater, the Rainforest Arts Center will have a lobby in the center of the building and would lease the south side of the building to retail businesses. 

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