Petition drive shows some dislike of design for new Forks arts center

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

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FORKS –– A petition signed by 244 people who think the proposed design for a new Rainforest Arts Center does not properly reflect the city of Forks was presented to the City Council this week.

Birdie James began circulating the petition after seeing a preliminary design for a brick and metal Rainforest Arts Center on the front pages of North Olympic Peninsula newspapers.

“It’s just so ultra-modern,” James said. “I don’t think it’s a fit for Forks.”

NAC Architects of Seattle are designing the new arts center to replace the former arts center building which burned Oct. 29.

The city received a $2.6 million insurance settlement to replace the old building, originally a former International Order of Odd Fellows lodge.

James collected signatures on the petition last week because, she said, the city and NAC did not incorporate enough input from the public in the design.

“We had meetings and input and none of it seemed to work its way into this design,” James said.

Priorities from workshops this spring said most people wanted to incorporate the city’s logging and wild heritage into the design.

“This has none of that,” James said.

The city has budgeted $2.1 million for the estimated 2,500-square-foot building.

City Planner/Attorney Rod Fleck said the image presented was an “artist’s rendition” of the building, not the finalized design.

“That picture isn’t necessarily what this building is exactly going to look like,” Fleck said.

Three design options will be presented to a joint meeting of the West End Business and Professionals Association and the Forks Chamber of Commerce at a 7:30 a.m. meeting next Wednesday at the state Department of Natural Resources conference room, 411 Tillicum Lane.

People in attendance will be able to stick dots on their favorite option.

Results of that poll will be presented to the City Council, Fleck said.

The council is scheduled to decide on the final design of the building at its Oct. 28 meeting.

Several people spoke against the brick-and-metal design to the council Monday.

Pat Stark said she felt it was “not inviting. It is cold.”

James said the city should look at designs for the large Cabela’s outdoors outfitting chain, with wood and river rock exteriors, as inspiration.

Not all are against the proposal, however.

“We have many folks come into City Hall and say ‘it’s a beautiful building, I think the city should build it,’” Fleck said.

He also reported an “extremely positive” response from anout 85 percent of those who viewed the design for the building — which could be lighted on its metal portion with varied colored lights — when it was displayed during the Forks High School homecoming football game Sept. 27.

Using wood, brick or river rock are more expensive than metal, Fleck said, not only in up front costs but also in maintenance.

“We have to keep this building within budget,” he said. “And we also have to think about the long-term maintenance costs.”

Steel costs about $8 to $9 per square foot, Fleck said. Hardy plank wood would be $14, with brick over $20 and river rock more than $30 per square foot.

“And none of this stuff maintains itself,” Fleck said.

A wood exterior would have to be painted every seven to eight years, he said.

Fleck noted the city’s Transit Center was built with a cedar exterior that had to be replaced 16 years after it was built.

He defended the design’s nod to the city’s heritage, noting the main area protrudes from the front of the building in a sawblade style.

“They’ve been trying to incorporate the heritage of the area in an artistic way,” he said.

He also noted the interior of the arts center is designed to be built entirely out of wood, not only for aesthetics but also for acoustic quality.

Construction is expected to begin next spring with the hopes of opening the center by April 2015.

Along with the multi-functional theater, the Rainforest Arts Center will have a lobby in the center of the building and would lease the south side of the building to retail businesses.


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

Last modified: October 17. 2013 7:50PM
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