Washington Center will get whole new look

mbatcheldor@theolympian.comJune 13, 2012 

The Washington Center for the Performing Arts will get a dramatically different exterior, including a new facade of brick and metal and a new marquee, under a $3.64 million plan the Olympia City Council approved Tuesday night.

Construction on the troubled building at 512 Washington St. S.E., which is leaking water, is set to begin next year after the theater’s regular season.

“The center wants to be a leader in creating community downtown and in the region,” said Kevin Boyer, interim executive director of The Washington Center for the Performing Arts. The council chose the most expensive of three options for the building, exceeding the original $3.45 million budget and work plan.

The cheapest of those options – $3.2 million – is the council’s original plan, calling for a new exterior material, canopy and to replace insulation and leaking windows.

Option B adds an “enhanced canopy” with lighting, glass doors, a ticket window, and supports for a temporary banner and a future marquee, for $3.45 million, also within the project’s budget.

But the council went with Option C – including all the elements of the first two options, but adding poster display windows, custom windows above the canopy, upgrading siding to stone above the entry, a canopy over the adjacent alley and a permanent marquee sign.

There’s a catch. Because the plan exceeds budget, the city will go with the most expensive option only if it receives a state grant, which could provide more than $816,000. If it’s not successful, it will go with Option B.

But, all told, work on the building could exceed $4.4 million, because the city plans to replace the center’s roof and its mechanical systems at the same time.

However, the City Council hasn’t identified where funds for the project will come from and may have to borrow the money. The city is already facing an estimated $2.4 million budget gap next year, and is considering asking voters to raise their sales taxes one-tenth of a percent to avoid budget cuts.

The city’s hand is being forced because the building, substantially built in 1985, has a cracking exterior made of a synthetic stucco known as EIFS. Water is leaking into the siding and into the building.

The city owns the building and is in charge of major maintenance, while the nonprofit arts organization also known as the Washington Center runs the theater and is responsible for most interior repairs.

Council members spent only few minutes discussing their decision.

Councilman Jim Cooper said he loved the designs, and Councilman Steve Langer said the design was a big improvement over the present one.

“I appreciate the work that’s been done to date to bring us great proposals,” Mayor Stephen Buxbaum said.


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