Forks to rebuild where fire destroyed historic IOOF hall; nine possible plans on view this weekend
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Two of nine artists’ renderings for a new community center in Forks are shown — “Peeling to Bring Nature In” at left, and “Floating Barn.” The nine concepts will be shown to the public today and Saturday at the Olympic Natural Resources Center, 1455 S. Forks Ave.

By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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FORKS — Forks is expected to have a new community arts center by early 2015 at the latest.

Earlier this week, the City Council approved a resolution to rebuild the Rainforest Arts Center in the old International Order of Odd Fellows hall at 35 N. Forks Ave.

The construction of a new facility could go to bid by September, with a bid awarded in January, said Rod Fleck, Forks’ city planner and attorney.

Fleck said the new arts center could be open as early as September 2014 or as late as January 2015.

The arts center and the adjacent Olympic Pharmacy building, most recently occupied by the Dazzled by Twilight souvenir store, burned to the ground in an early morning fire Oct. 29.

The IOOF hall and property were insured by the city for $3.7 million, and a settlement for $2.64 million will cover the cost of replacement, including code upgrades, Fleck said.

If the city had decided to take the cash value of the property and not rebuild, the city would have received only $1.4 million to use as officials saw fit, Fleck said.

The site of the former Olympic Pharmacy, owned by Alaska Financial Co. of Anchorage, Alaska, has been listed for sale for $74,500, and some community members have encouraged the city to include the property in replacement plans.

That property was not addressed in Wednesday’s resolution, Fleck said.

A survey taken by the city earlier this year identified public priorities for a new building, which was turned over to a group of seniors and graduate students from the University of Washington architecture and environmental programs.

For the past eight weeks, they worked with those priorities to design nine very different replacement concepts, Fleck said.

Those plans will be available for public viewing and comment from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Olympic Natural Resources Center, 1455 S. Forks Ave.

The students and their plans also will be available from noon to 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the ballfields behind the Forks Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St., during the Kenny Church Memorial Youth League Tournament.

After public comment on those plans, Fleck said, the student plans and public response to those plans will be turned over to an architecture firm for a final design.

About 15 years ago, the Odd Fellows organization deeded the Forks building to the city of Forks, which worked with the Rain­forest Players to manage the building as a community arts center.

The 1925 IOOF building had received $300,000 in improvements, mostly funded by community donations and grants.

The community theater lost all of its costumes, props, electronics and lighting equipment.

The theater/ballroom seated 150 people, and a second room had space for 50 people.

A square dance group held weekly dance classes, and a spinning class kept 14 spinning wheels and looms on the third floor — all lost in the fire.

There also were two street-level storefronts in the building.

One was occupied by Tienda Latina, a small Latin American merchandise and grocery store that opened in 1994, and the other was unoccupied.

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Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at arwyn.rice@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: May 30. 2013 6:37PM
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