Lacey City Council, which last year approved spending $950,000 to acquire a building for an expanded history museum, visited the site on Thursday to tour the structure and imagine the possibilities.
After touring the 16,000-square-foot building at 5700 Lacey Boulevard SE, the council and the city’s historical commission returned to City Hall to talk more about the future site.
With $150,000 allocated for the project, the city and historical commission this year plan to update the site plan, determine whether Lebanon Street needs to be extended through the site, evaluate parking needs, develop a new exterior architectural rendering, and consider the interior needs.
This much is known: 10,000 square feet will be devoted to the museum, while the remainder of the space will be set aside for public and private events, said Jen Burbidge, the city’s parks and recreation director.
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The current Lacey Museum on Lacey Street is a mere 1,656 square feet, yet there is growing interest in the city’s history. In 2016, nearly 1,000 people visited the museum, a 25 percent increase over 2015.
On Thursday, council members weighed in with their own suggestions. Some questioned the wisdom of extending Lebanon Street and suggested instead that driveway access be provided off Lacey Boulevard and Pacific Avenue.
Councilman Lenny Greenstein said that extending a “fully functioning road is a huge expense.”
Councilman Jeff Gadman showed support for driveway access from both streets, with the entrances offset so that people wouldn’t simply use the access to cut between Lacey Boulevard and Pacific Avenue.
Another idea was to create a street through the site that looks more like a parking lot. If that sounds unusual, Lacey already has such a road. It’s called Spurline, and it runs between Pacific Avenue and Lacey Boulevard west of College Street near Cabinets by Trivonna.
The project also will memorialize the train depot that used to operate next to the museum site.
The depot served a train that ran through the area — where Woodland Trail is today — from the 1890s until the structure closed in the early 1930s. The depot was torn down in the 1940s. Lacey Plywood Co. occupied the site from the 1950s until the late 1980s. Later, carpet businesses used the future museum building.
“A restroom building and picnic shelter could be built that looks like the old railroad station,” Councilman Gadman said.
Councilman Jason Hearn said his son, a train buff, told him that an old train engine or railroad car could be reasonably acquired. If the city made that move, volunteers would emerge to help restore it, Hearn said.
Historical Commission Chairman Erich Ebel would like to see interpretive panels and signs on site that “would tell the story of Lacey’s railroad past,” he said. Even when the museum is closed, people using Woodland Trail could learn about the city’s history, he said.
The building is not vacant. The party rental business Celebrations has a six-month lease, which pays the city $1,000 a month; and Fast Signs also plans to lease space on an as-needed basis for $75 a day, said economic development coordinator George Smith.
Lease revenue will be used to offset museum operating costs, Smith said.