Washington Center gets ready for reveal

City gets word that it will receive $816,000 grant to help pay for new exterior, canopies, more

Staff writerJuly 9, 2013 

Behind a skeleton of scaffolding and a shroud of black mesh, the exterior of The Washington Center for the Performing Arts is taking on a radically new appearance.

Workers have been removing the leaky synthetic stucco exterior, slathered onto a Styrofoam-like material, that has framed the center for more than 25 years. They’re replacing it with brick and stone on the facade and concrete and metal on the other sides of the building at 512 Washington St. SE.

It’s all part of a $3.3 million construction job at the city-owned building for contractor Corp. Inc. of Salem, Ore. All told, the city is spending about $4.6 million on the project, including design and the replacement of the center’s roof and rooftop HVAC equipment.

“It’s huge,” said Jill Barnes, the center’s new executive director. “It’s a jewel in our downtown.”

The renovation will include the new exterior, front canopy with lighting, custom windows and stone cladding above the canopy, glass doors, ticket windows, poster display windows, another canopy over the adjacent alley, and a permanent marquee sign.

Work is scheduled to wrap up in October, said Rick Dougherty, project manager for the city.

The Olympia City Council borrowed money for most of the project. But it just learned that $816,000 of the work will be paid from a state grant, said Debbie Sullivan, director of technical services for the city.

Workers are taking pains to ensure that the new exterior is waterproof, unlike the old one. The old exterior was crumbling due to leakage. They’re installing a new metal framework that will attach to the finishing material — brick, stone or metal.

New canopies will cover the sidewalk in front of the building and an adjacent alley, to protect equipment and materials that are loaded or unloaded in the rain.

A focal point of the new entrance will be a lighted vertical marquee, flanked by banners. Underneath will be revamped ticket windows, better marked for patrons.

“It won’t just benefit The Washington Center,” Barnes said. “It’s … going to make a big impact in the community.”

Workers have been discovering relics of the old Olympic Theater, a movie house dating to 1924 that was mostly torn down for the center, which opened in 1985. Six arches that were part of the old building were revealed, along with a painted column that says “parking” on an area that was an adjacent parking garage.

The northbound lane of Washington Street has been closed for the project, but one lane of traffic will remain. “We try to keep the sidewalks open at all times,” Dougherty said.

Crews will work Monday through Friday until the project is done, Dougherty said.

“It’s exciting,” Dougherty said.

“It’s a new era.”

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com @MattBatcheldor

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