Good turnout for Westport activity/event building stakeholders meeting

Approximately three dozen Westport business owners and citizens, along with representatives from the City of Westport and the Port of Grays Harbor, attended a meeting at McCausland Hall on Jan. 24, to discuss the need for an activity/event center located in the Westport Marina District.

The meeting was hosted by the Westport/Grayland Chamber of Commerce and moderated by Westport South Beach Historical Society Executive Director John Shaw.

All attending were in near-immediate agreement that an activity/event center is needed and desired and further shared their willingness to move forward to try to make that a reality. Specific requirements suggested for the structure included the need for it to be a covered year-round building that can accommodate 300-500 people at one time, infrastructure to support it and a nearby parking area to accommodate that many visitors.

The next step in the discussion was to determine what kind of research and study would be necessary to move forward. As a part of that discussion, Port of Grays Harbor Director of Environment and Engineering Services, Randy Lewis, briefly reviewed the processes involved in 2011 and 2012 when the City last attempted to construct an activity/event center in the Marina District. At that time, Lewis was Westport’s City Administrator.

The 2012 plan called for placing a 7,200 square foot building in the Carstensen Street right-of-way between the public parking lots located on either side. The building would have taken up the half block from the alleys along the parking lots to Nyhus Street. It would have been a shell constructed primarily of steel with a concrete floor and designed to fit a seaside location in a Nantucket style with no restrooms or interior storage but would have included covered walkways surrounding it. The building included several doors installed to allow access from both parking lots with a large hanger type door in the middle of the building facing Westhaven Drive to allow for vehicle access. The plans included radiant heating, ventilation, water and power.

With a $700,000 to $750,000 estimated cost, the City went out for bids with the lowest coming in at $1,235,000. Reasons offered by contractors for the more than $485,000 bid discrepancy included the construction timeframe, design requirements to withstand winds up to 105 mph, as well as the recommendation for use of marine-grade materials.

The City rejected all bids at that time and attempted to scale back the project, figuring out how to save little more than $400,000, leaving the project still $85,000 above the high end estimated cost.

The final blow came with the City’s failure to obtain a CERB (Community Economic Revitalization Board) grant of $500,000 with at least a 5% match from the City. Without sufficient funding, the project was placed on an indefinite hold.

Several attendees volunteered to serve on a committee to take the next step, which the group determined will be to collect ideas from other municipal event centers to determine the kind of building participants want in Westport. Committee members include Jarl Priest, Harry Carthum, Connie Newton, Ray Brown, Kathryn Franzen, Kristi Ballo and Traci Stefaniw.

The group agreed to meet again at a yet-to-be specified date after the investigating committee has had ample time to explore what kinds of activity/event buildings have to offer in other geographic areas.