Gov. Jay Inslee toured Fort Worden at the end of April, his first visit to the park since taking office. While there, he saw firsthand examples of the success of the public-private partnership …
Gov. Jay Inslee toured Fort Worden at the end of April, his first visit to the park since taking office. While there, he saw firsthand examples of the success of the public-private partnership managing the property, and learned about future initiatives focused on historic preservation, energy efficiency and program development.
The tour highlighted Makers Square, an arts, culture and education district proposed for the Fort Worden Lifelong Learning Center; alternative energy projects under development to reduce the fort’s carbon emissions; and the collaborative partnership that led to Peninsula College’s new state-of-the-art education facility in the former military barracks, Building 202.
Opened in October 2016, Peninsula College offers 14,000 square feet of learning spaces, which include classrooms, a studio/art room, a learning lab, a workforce training room, student study space, reception, advising areas, and faculty offices. The $6.1 million renovation was completed in partnership with the city of Port Townsend, the Fort Worden Public Development Authority (PDA), Peninsula College and Washington State Parks.
As part of its sustainability plan, the PDA focused on efforts to improve the energy efficiency of the campus by installing solar panels on key buildings, as well as the proposed Makers Square Energy Center, a district-based, alternative-energy program that will reduce carbon emissions by installing a ground-source energy system (geothermal) and convert a former military base, which operated with fossil fuels, into a model for environmental stewardship.
Makers Square will be a new neighborhood of the FWLLC and a year-round community of innovators, creative businesses and nonprofit organizations. It will add to the vitality of Fort Worden’s existing programming, create an intriguing destination for locals and visitors, and support the fort’s mission of lifelong learning and fiscal sustainability. The proposed $14.4 million capital project represents the first substantial opportunity for new development since the PDA took over FWLLC operations and management in May 2014.
The project will include rehabilitation of three of Fort Worden’s historic buildings, in order to increase the public benefit and socio-economic impact of these treasured landmarks. When renovated and repurposed as flexible classrooms, artist studios, galleries and work spaces, Buildings 305, 308 and 324 will create opportunities for new, free and fee-based, residential and non-residential programming at the FWLLC. The adaptive reuse of these three buildings is the first phase in a larger effort to redevelop 50,000 square feet of vacant or underutilized historic structures into Makers Square.
The governor’s visit followed a panel discussion hosted by Results Washington, a special event held in conjunction with the three-day Main Street/Revitalize Washington conference April 23-25. During the panel discussion, Inslee learned about the performance of several state departments and commissions.
Peter Herzog, assistant director for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, was joined by Dave Robison, executive director of the Fort Worden PDA, to share insights on the eight-year process that led State Parks and the PDA to enter into a management partnership and 50-year lease agreement for the central 90 acres of Fort Worden State Park to be operated as a lifelong learning center.
In 2013, State Parks and the PDA entered into a collaborative management agreement and 50-year master lease for the FWLLC. State Parks remains steward of Fort Worden’s parklands and natural resources. The PDA manages all operations within the FWLLC – including tenant leases and facility use, hospitality and guest services, capital improvements and program development – and is mandated to be financially self-sustaining.
Today, the FWLLC occupies 90 acres in the heart of Fort Worden and is home year around to a constellation of 15 creative businesses and nonprofit organizations, which, as a group, offer more than 1,500 program days and generate aggregate revenues totaling more than $15 million annually. These organizations – which include Centrum, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend Marine Science Center, Peninsula and Goddard colleges, the Port Townsend School of Woodworking and others – contribute significantly to the lifelong learning mission, offering a variety of arts, culture, education, environmental stewardship, wellness, historic preservation and outdoor recreation programs.