A new idea is taking the forefront to revitalize the deteriorating Guy Cole Convention Center in Carrie Blake Park.
Mayor Ken Hays and Pat Johansen, a community activist, proposed a plan centering on the peninsula-wide effort to eat local food.
Hays said the center could be a locale for culinary-based programs and make the city an agri-tourism and eco-tourism culinary destination.
It’s tentatively branded “Sequim Harvest: Fruits of the Land and Sea.”
The center could be part of a yearlong food-based experience, Hays said, that includes
cooking demonstrations, product fairs, dinner events and other special events.
He and Johansen began three months ago on the project following discussions about the on-hold Incredible Edible Festival.
Johansen said she’s always felt Sequim lacked venues and a community center.
“Sequim is unique in terms of our agricultural harvesting and we see a movement for local food,” she said. “It’s becoming part of the Sequim ethic.”
Guy Cole struck her as an asset to the city.
“A lot of events are going to Port Angeles and we need to keep people close,” she said.
The remodel calls for a budget of about $360,000, which Hays said is realistic because it’s an overhaul of most of the facility.
Some projects include an exterior face-lift — re-roofing, new windows, doors and an overhead door — as well as remodeling the commercial kitchen, creating an office and meeting room, improving acoustics, buying portable barbecues and improving the bathrooms.
The Sequim Valley Lions Club built the facility in 1982 and it is used three to five times a month, mostly for weddings. City staff said the facility is in bad shape, however, and rentals don’t make up the maintenance costs.
The Sequim City Band abandoned a project last summer that could have turned the facility into a multi-use community center and concert hall. Estimated costs were at about $1 million.
The new proposal came to the city council shortly after finalizing a purchase of property for a new city hall and police department. Hays said the convention center proposal shouldn’t dilute the effort for both projects.
“The projects aren’t in competition but a complement part of the civic center,” he said.
Funding for the convention center would be voluntary, he said, and voters would need to approve a new police department and city hall.
“If the community isn’t excited, then it won’t happen, but if so, then it could happen in a year,” Johansen said about the center.
Hays and Johansen plan for fundraising from multiple sources, such as a matching fund worth $60,000 from the city and the community, major business and individual donors and public government funding sources, including tourism and food grants.
Some fundraising event ideas include a community garage sale, community barbecues, antiques shows, tip boxes in restaurants and selling ice cream at city band events.
“It’s going to be a volunteer project and going to take a lot of time,” Johansen said.
Hays and Johansen hope for a September 2013 completion, tying into the Sequim Centennial Celebration.
They intend to do much of the planning themselves, working with a community subcommittee, so that the project doesn’t take much city staff time.
Hays said whatever the city chooses from its parks and recreation options, the plan allows for office space so that potential parks staff could work from the center.
Johansen and Hays presented their proposal to the city council on Feb. 27, with mostly positive feedback. Councilors agreed to review the plan further at their March 9 retreat at The Cedars at Dungeness.
Hays said he hopes councilors keep the center as a priority.
Erik Erichsen said the idea was a good start.
“This could bring ownership of the whole city, which needs to be done, or it won’t be a success,” he said.
Laura Dubois said the idea should have been done 10 years ago.
“The water reuse site and Carrie Blake Park are a gem but Guy Cole is just a travesty,” she said.
Mayor pro-tem Ted Miller said this is the building’s last chance and that council should adopt a plan or raze the building.
If councilors go forward with the idea, Johansen said she would begin outreach to people for support.
“If the community makes this investment of time and money, then we can let them name it,” Johansen said.
She and Hays don’t intend to overshadow the Lions’ and Guy Cole’s contributions, so they plan to place a donor wall to recognize those who made the project possible.
For more information, contact Ken Hays at firstname.lastname@example.org, Pat Johansen at email@example.com or the city at the comments section of the city’s Website, www.sequimwa.gov.
Reach Matthew Nash at firstname.lastname@example.org.