The Fort Worden Public Development Authority has authorized a 2019 operating budget that forecasts an increase in revenues over last year by making the fort more attractive to visitors.
Priorities include providing a memorable and extraordinary guest experience, ensuring a sustainable year-round economy, preserving and revitalizing the historic campus, becoming the employer of choice and developing and nurturing partnerships for success, PDA Executive Director Dave Robison said.
“Last year we adopted a three-year plan with five strategic priorities,” he said. “But really the goal of the three-year plan is to build Fort Worden as a national destination for arts, culture and education.”
The executive team was focused on the big picture when drafting the budget, Robison said.
“How do all of our departments pull together to work together to build Fort Worden as a national destination?” he asked. “From an executive team perspective, we are really looking at how do we develop those community partnerships and increasingly (how) we can go after sponsorships? We want to make that a focus for 2019.”
The PDA unanimously approved the budget during its regular meeting on Jan. 23.
The budget forecasts revenue at $6.01 million, an increase from $5.4 million received in 2018.
Major revenue generators projected for this year include accommodations, at about $3.5 million, and food and beverage sales at about $2.7 million, according to the operating budget presented to the PDA.
Expenses also are expected to increase, with a projection of $5.9 million versus $5.6 million in 2018. The largest expenses are projected to be personnel costs, at nearly $4 million, and operating expenses at about $1.25 million.
Net revenues are projected to be about $83,000 in 2019. The PDA lost about $229,000 in 2018.
The PDA has prioritized ways to make the operation more environmentally friendly, such as beginning a Green Seal Certification review of operationational recycling and waste management.
A key area where waste reduction can be made is in the food services offered at the fort, said Rufina C. Garay, Fort Worden chief strategy officer.
“On the sustainability program, we have had a lot of great foundational work in 2018, and we have revitalized the department committee and been talking about many of things that have been under research over the past year that affect how we manage our waste management, including our food waste,” Garay said. “The hospitality industry is notorious for the amount of waste that goes on, and there is a level of mindfulness that goes with how do we build a mindset in our culture around operations working to reduce that waste?”
Food and beverage
In addition to reducing food waste, Fort Worden is looking to improve its culinary program.
“We are really looking out into the employer community in the area, and the peninsula is ripe for a broader expansion of who will be invested in creating a culinary program,” Garay said. “So the benefit of that will actually impact a broader economy than just the local economy here.
“In terms of the culinary arts program, we have already toured many different models around the area and the state,” Garay added. “We have also looked at independent programs. We are really looking at the financial sustainability of those programs. This year we will be presenting the feasibility.”
Fort Worden also will develop historical information and pictures of other key venues on campus by collaborating with maintenance, housekeeping and facilities to prioritize improvements to offer better value and extended stays. Officials also want to create a partnership with the Port Townsend Historical Society.
Another way to revitalize the campus is the creation of Makers Square.
The PDA had hoped to vote on a request for proposal concerning Makers Square during the meeting, but it has been postponed while details are worked out. Makers Square will be a 7-acre arts, culture and education district in the heart of Fort Worden State Park.
“We have heard from the board that we really need to put together an operations plan rather sooner than later, so we will be talking about that in February or March,” Robison said.
The first phase of the project will include the rehabilitation of three historic buildings: 305, 308 and 324.
The project will transform the buildings into multipurpose artist studios, classrooms, galleries and workspaces, with Building 305 as the “central hub.”
The north studio will be designed as a space for working with clay, paint and other mediums. Moving south, the studios and classrooms will be more refined, Johnson said. They could be used as photography or design studios.
Then at the south end, a gallery will display artwork. Once the project goes out for bid, Signal Architecture + Research and the Fort Worden PDA will monitor construction to ensure historical preservation, Johnson said.