Forks looks forward to more room for arts center

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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FORKS –– The city will have more room to build a new theater and arts center soon, since the West Olympic Council of the Arts expects to finalize the purchase of the former Olympic Pharmacy lot next week and deed the property to the city.

“We have a contract that’s been accepted by the seller. We expect to close the deal early next week, if not sooner,” Ellen Matheny, a member of the Rainforest Players board of directors, said Thursday.

The City Council unanimously agreed Monday night to accept the property from the arts council when the purchase is finalized.

The lot is at the corner of Division Street and Forks Avenue, and is adjacent to the city-owned lot that was the location of the Rainforest Arts Center before it burned last October.

Mayor Bryon Monohon called it a “monumental moment” after the vote.

The arts council, doing business as the Rainforest Arts Center, or RAC, has been negotiating since July with Alaska Financial Co., which bought the lot after it was foreclosed from its last occupant, Dazzled by Twilight.

A building there burned Oct. 29 in a fire caused by an electrical box short in the former arts center building, which was built in 1925 and which once housed the International Order of Odd Fellows.

The theater had 150 seats in its main hall and was used for other community organizations such as a weekly square dance group and a wool spinning circle that lost several looms and spinning wheels in the fire.

The building on the corner lot had been empty since Dazzled by Twilight closed in 2011.

The Odd Fellows lodge was deeded to the city in 1997, and the Rainforest Players had been managing it as the arts center.

The city received a $2.64 million insurance settlement to rebuild the arts center on the lot.

Rod Fleck, city planner/attorney, said the corner lot will help give the city flexibility in designing the new arts center.

“We’ve been designing with the knowledge that it was more likely than not that we would be able to use the corner lot,” Fleck said.

In July, the city hired NAC Architects of Seattle to design the new building with a $2.1 million budget.

The property was listed for sale by Forks Avenue Real Estate for $74,500.

Rainforest Players board member Warren Brown reported in August that the arts council had offered $35,000 for the property and received a counter offer of $71,000.

Matheny on Thursday would not disclose the agreed-upon price because the purchase had not been finalized.

She said the deal was contingent upon the city accepting the property, as the arts council did not want to keep ownership of the lot.

“The only reason we bought it was to give it to the city,” Matheny said.

The arts council had received a number of donations to buy the lot and had received an insurance settlement for props, costumes, lighting equipment and other assets lost in the fire.

“It’s been a real great grass-roots effort,” Matheny said.

Fleck said the addition of the corner lot to the RAC property will allow the city to design the building with a courtyard that could be used for pep rallies and outdoor weekend concerts.

“That corner really allows us to do a lot more in terms of creating a community space,” Fleck said.

NAC Architects will unveil three ideas for the new building at Forks High School, 261 S. Spartan Ave., during the Spartans’ Sept. 27 homecoming game against Tenino.

Concepts will be displayed next to the concessions booth at Spartan Stadium or inside the school next to the Spartan statue if weather is rainy.

Fleck said the city will be seeking ideas from the public during the display that eventually may be incorporated into the building’s design.

The finalized design of the RAC will be unveiled to a joint meeting of the West End Business and Professionals Association and the Forks Chamber of Commerce on Oct. 23 in the Department of Natural Resources conference room, 411 Tillicum Lane.

Fleck said the city hopes to put construction of the building out for bids in early January, with construction slated to begin in April.

The goal is to have the new RAC open by April 2015.

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at

Last modified: September 12. 2013 6:07PM
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