Gig Harbor residents are fans of the arts, judging by the number of art walks and summer festivals, not to mention the Gig Harbor Film Festival.
With a high median income and a population supportive of the arts, it is no surprise that Gig Harbor is seen as a prime location for the proposed Gig Harbor Arts Center (GHAC) in a market feasibility study performed by Johnson Consulting and released in August.
The study was paid for by the Gig Harbor Arts Center Alliance, a nonprofit organization of artists and Gig Harbor residents who have organized to advocate for a regional arts center, said board vice president Mark Hoppen.
“It’s kind of transformational information,” Hoppen said of the study. “It fills a market niche that isn’t really filled in Puget Sound.”
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The proposed GHAC includes a ballroom, community theater, performance hall and numerous small rooms to provide a conference center space in 107,144 square feet.
It’s kind of transformational information. It fills a market niche that isn’t really filled in Puget Sound.
Mark Hoppen, board vice-president of Gig Harbor Arts Center Alliance
The study identified key characteristics in Gig Harbor and the surrounding community that would support an arts center of this size.
The city of Gig Harbor has many of the key characteristics and requirements necessary to support a multi-use GHAC as part of a Public Facilities District (PFD), according to the study.
“Among the most important characteristics observed is a significant surrounding area population with over 500,000 within a 30-minute drive-time of Gig Harbor; a highly educated population; steady population growth; an above average median household income; and accessibility to and from local and regional transportation options,” the report reads.
Hoppen expanded on the study and noted how a large regional arts center located in Gig Harbor would benefit not only the community, but also local merchants and economy through an increase in anticipated revenue.
“The study points out that in direct taxes to the city of Gig Harbor (would be) about $230,000 a year and lodging tax (would be) an additional $70,000 a year,” Hoppen said.
The study further predicts a generated economic impact of $11 million to the local economy, not including the additional jobs the facility would create.
“It would be like a whole new economic sector in the local economy,” Hoppen said. “Something different in character than we’ve had before.”
A tentative understanding for the location for the GHAC has been agreed upon with Harbor Christian Church, which owns the 6.2 acres off Borgen Boulevard across the street from the Tom Taylor Family YMCA. The church has agreed to donate the property in exchange for some standing lease time for its worship services. Further discussions for additional space have been held with the Peninsula School District, which has been active in the discussion for the GHAC.
An unexpected piece of information from the feasibility study was that the original size of the proposed center, at 88,710 square feet, was not predicted to be large enough for the proposed use of the space, which prompted the expansion of the center to the currently proposed 107,144 square feet.
There’s a number of reasons why (the GHAC) would be beneficial. One is that it gives everyone who lives here not just an opportunity for education and entertainment but a common area where we can come together. It’s a way to synthesize the people who live here in this community.
In hand with the increased square footage is the increase in price, up now to just under $60 million — $58,480,520 to be exact — which remains one of the largest obstacles in the path to seeing this dream become a reality.
“There’s a lot of potential here,” Hoppen said. “The devil’s in the details. That’s why there needs to be a conversation to include this in the compressive plans and capital plans of local jurisdictions.”
The next step in the project is to have it considered as part of the comprehensive and capital plans of local area entities, including the city of Gig Harbor, Pierce County and PenMet Parks, he said.
Hoppen mentioned that he hopes to see the city of Gig Harbor add an arts element to the city’s comprehensive plan, which could include room for the GHAC.
“There’s a number of reasons why (the GHAC) would be beneficial,” Hoppen said. “One is that it gives everyone who lives here not just an opportunity for education and entertainment but a common area where we can come together. It’s a way to synthesize the people who live here in this community.”
For more information about the Gig Harbor Arts Center Alliance and to read the feasibility study, visit gigharborartscenter.org.