Oak Street property eyed for marine science, conference center in Port Angeles
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Gary Donnelly, project administrator for Alaska-based Neeser Construction Inc., talks about the potential placement of buildings and facilities in Port Angeles that could eventually house the Feiro Marine Life Center and accompanying conference center as Feiro Director Deb Moriarty listens on Thursday. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
The location of the Port Angeles waterfront parcel under consideration.

By Paul Gottlieb and Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT ANGELES — The long-dormant downtown Front and Oak streets waterfront property is being eyed as the site of a new, 63,000-67,000-square-foot, two-building marine science and conference center with additional space for retail activity.

Alaska-based Neeser Construction Inc. has made an offer on Olympic Lodge owner Tod McClaskey Jr.’s property.

“A final agreement was reached pending verification of certain disclosures, due diligence, soil conditions,” Neeser Project Administrator Gary Donnelly said Thursday.

“I assure you it will be worked out.”

Neeser would not disclose the cost of the project or the amount of the offer.

The property is listed for sale for $2 million, according to the Port Angeles Multiple Listing Service.

Commonly called the Oak Street property, the parcel has a 2013 valuation of $655,703 for 2014 taxes.

The 1.96-acre waterfront site — a former log yard — could be the new home for the Feiro Marine Life Center and a 5,800-square-foot shared conference center, said Deborah Moriarty, director of the center now housed in a city-owned building on City Pier.

Donnelly, who said all the space would be leased with construction done solely by the company, said the plan is to include 7,000-8,000 square feet of retail space in a 27,000-square-foot building, which he termed Phase 1.

Construction on that could begin by July and in 2015 on a second, 36,000-40,000-square-foot building that Donnelly called Phase 2 that, for now, would consist of covered space and open-air exhibit space, Donnelly said.

“It will provide an expanded venue for teaching opportunities,” he said.

“Phase 2 will happen.”

Phase 1 would include temporary space for Feiro operations, the conference center and retail space for marine-related businesses, such as kayak rentals or a seaside restaurant, Donnelly said.

The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary headquarters and additional permanent space for Feiro could be located in the second building, which Donnelly called the “science building.”

Moriarty and Donnelly would not comment on the marine sanctuary’s participation in the project, referring all questions to sanctuary officials.

“If they built it, we would certainly be interested,” Kevin Grant, deputy superintendent of the sanctuary, which now has offices at The Landing mall on Railroad Avenue, said Thursday.

“This would be a coup for all of Port Angeles, Clallam County and the Olympic Peninsula.”

McClaskey said he anticipated the sale going through.

“We are very hopeful,” he said.

“We feel good, but they have to go through a lot of hoops financially to determine that end of it.”

Officials with Feiro and the sanctuary say they have outgrown their existing facilities along the waterfront.

According to a feasibility study released in April, the new marine science center could include a 3,000-square-foot conference room for 250-300 people that would be leased by the city that would be part of a 5,800-square-foot conference center, said Nathan West, the city’s community and economic development director.

Those plans remain in place, Moriarty said Thursday.

Donnelly said he did not know whether there would be a conference coordinator who would schedule events at the facility but that Neeser would have responsibility for managing the building.

Along with the conference room would be a 1,000-square-foot foyer, a 200-square-foot catering kitchen and restrooms.

McClaskey, the Oak Street property owner, lives in Camas and owns Longview-based Western Inns, which also operates lodging properties in Klamath Falls, Ore.; Bishop, Calif.; and Jackson Hole, Wyo.

Real estate broker Dan Gase of Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty represents McClaskey.

“There was a significant amount of negotiations between the parties, which resulted in this offer,” said Gase, also a Port Angeles City Council member.

In the past decade, the property, which McClaskey purchased in 2008 for $1.3 million, had been targeted for convention center and condominium projects that never reached fruition.

They included proposals in 1993 and 1998 by Shilo Inns; a 156-room hotel and conference center proposed by Randal Ehm, of Seattle and San Diego, in 2004; and a 2006 proposal by Harry Dorssers for, first, an aquatic center, then condominiums with retail businesses.

McClaskey, who purchased the property from Dorssers, includes a restriction in the MLS listing that prevents “daily or weekly lodging as a use of this property.”

A parking plan will be part of the building permit application, West said.

“We will strongly encourage any developer to evaluate the market-based need for parking for whatever facility they are constructing to make sure they are accommodating the market demand,” West said.

West said the project would not affect adjacent state Department of Natural Resources land or the city’s planned West End Park.

Feiro and sanctuary officials in January 2013 announced plans to combine funding and function in a combined new facility for marine science education that would cost $12.6 million.

Feiro is housed in a 3,500-square-foot building.

The sanctuary, which protects more than 3,300 square miles of sensitive coastal Pacific Ocean waters, from Cape Flattery to Copalis Beach, rents 7,150 square feet of office, laboratory and classroom space in The Landing mall near City Pier.

The sanctuary’s educational Discovery Center is a small, rectangular storefront crowded with marine technology exhibits.

Like Feiro, the Discovery Center is dedicated to education and marine science.


Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at paul.gottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

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

Last modified: January 09. 2014 7:01PM
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