I got the opportunity to attend a focus group last week aimed at gathering feedback on the proposed construction of an 88,000-square-foot, $30 million-plus, multiuse arts center on an 11-acre site across from the YMCA in Gig Harbor North.
The conceptualized renderings of the proposed facility flashed on a screen in the room at the Gig Harbor Civic Center immediately made me think of a building or center fit for a place like Seattle or Portland — certainly not Gig Harbor.
But yes, this is proposed for Gig Harbor.
“This is a mighty project in a small community,” said Charlie Johnson, president and CEO of Johnson Consulting, the Chicago-based real estate and hospitality consulting firm in the midst of studying the project. “Small communities can do big things.”
This is a mighty project in a small community.
Charlie Johnson, president and CEO of Johnson Consulting, the Chicago-based real estate and hospitality consulting firm in the midst of studying the project
Johnson has seen it firsthand. His firm has conducted analysis on projects in medium-sized cities such as Des Moines, Iowa; Seaside, Calif.; and San Marcos, Texas. It has also worked on three performing arts center projects in the state of Washington.
While most of the major details of the project are in the very preliminary stages, the prospect of a multiuse building like this in Gig Harbor is pretty exciting. We’re talking ballrooms, stages, an orchestra pit, and basically space for everything from community meetings, conferences, galas and fundraisers to weddings, reunions, receptions and memorials.
There is also more than enough parking built into the plans, as well as an ideal timeline with the completion of Harbor Hill Drive to Burnham Drive, to alleviate traffic worries.
There are also connections for water, sewer and stormwater already on the site, so it wouldn’t add any extra construction costs. The site that is currently available for the project consists of 6.2 acres owned by Harbor Christian Center and approximately 5.5 acres owned by the Peninsula School District.
Harbor Christian Center is willing to donate the property on the condition that a building in constructed which it can lease on Sundays without rent, until the value of the property is realized through agreed rent equivalency, using elements of the facility for its activities. The school district is willing to consider joint-use parking for the Gig Harbor Regional Arts Center.
The pieces sure fit together nicely.
A building of this magnitude and opulence would have the potential to bring in visitors from Tacoma to Federal Way — even as far north as Seattle and Bellevue — and those in Kitsap County as well.
And its proposed use of sales tax increment financing to fund the project would eliminate the need to push voters to approve any measure that would increase property taxes.
We want to see if something as exotic as this will fly, and if not, what will.
Mark Hoppen, vice president of the Gig Harbor Arts Center Alliance, the nonprofit group behind the project
Nine out of every $10 on a potential .2-percent sales tax increase would come from outside the city, according to Mark Hoppen, vice president of the Gig Harbor Arts Center Alliance, the nonprofit group behind the project.
And although the scope of the project is pretty big, there is a consensus that the vision could change depending on how it progresses.
“We want to see if something as exotic as this will fly, and if not, what will,” Hoppen said.