Milestone for maritime museum

Foss Waterway Seaport marked a milestone Thursday as it kicked off construction of a 368-foot Esplanade and repairs to an...

Foss Waterway Seaport marked a milestone Thursday as it kicked off construction of a 368-foot Esplanade and repairs to an aged wharf, both part of a larger $23 million overall renovation of the Seaport — formerly known as the Working Waterfront Museum.

In June, the museum closed its doors to make way for the current renovation, which is expected to be completed in late-spring — in time for Tall Ships 2008.

The $11 million wharf repair and esplanade construction is only part of the project. Also on Thursday, organizers — including the Seaport (which raised $3.8 million) and the Foss Waterway Development Authority (which raised over $7 million) — also announced the beginning of a $12 million capital campaign to expand the Seaport’s maritime heritage museum, provide a year-round K-12 marine science laboratory classroom, house a heritage boat-building center, and offer community meeting, conference, and performance spaces.

The 107-year-old Balfour Dock Building, which has been the home of the museum and maritime center for the last 11 years, is the oldest remaining intact building linked to Tacoma’s commercial and industrial maritime founding, according to Seaport executive director Tom Cashman. It is also the last surviving segment of what was once a mile-long wheat warehouse. It is located at the birthplace of the Port of Tacoma and near the home of the original Foss Company.

“When completed, it will become the US west coast’s largest and most comprehensive maritime heritage education, activity and recreation venue,” said Cashman.

The Tacoma Daily Index heard from the project’s key players during Thursday’s celebration.

TOM CASHMAN | EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR | FOSS WATERWAY SEAPORT

What we’re doing today is essentially the hard work that has been going on for the last two weeks. The community can now see the physical project now is underway. This is something that we and our partner, the Foss Waterway Development Authority (FWDA), have been talking about and advocating for the last three to four years. What’s exciting to us about today is it’s now underway, the project is going to happen, and it’s full-steam ahead.

Also, we’re announcing today a $12 million capitol campaign that allows us to create a facility that is fully up to speed and delivering the kind of comprehensive programs we want to provide for the community.

The overall fund-raising is a combination between FWDA and us, it’s a little bit over $11 million toward the project that will cost an estimated $23 million. We’re almost halfway home, really. We’ve set a two-year timetable in trying to raise that next component. The process here is that our campaign and the redevelopment is designed to be phased in. We expect to be back in this building in some form by around Tall Ships next year. The wharf will be done. There will be a new, 368-foot piece of esplanade that will go around this building. Up until now, people have not been able to walk on the water-side of the building. For Tall Ships, people will be able to walk around the building and take part in that. It will actually really help with the challenge before us in terms of being able to raise additional funds for the project.

The Seaport will actually re-occupy the space we were in, which was 15,000 square feet. We’ll actually have an additional 2,000 square feet over what we had before. We’ll put in some basic kind of exhibits that will kind of market the future of the building. We haven’t decided yet on the elements of the phasing that will go into it. That’s still to be determined. We’ll deliver our program at the rate at which we raise money. In all likelihood, one of the first projects will be the roof. We need a new roof. That helps with seismic stability, and allows the full building to be used for the general public. Right now, only the northern part can be used for large crowds. We’ll double our boat shop, increase the size of the formal museum area by three times what we had before, and there will be a medium-sized conference center facility.

We started raising money in 2003. We had a partnership agreement with FWDA that kicked in in 2006. And then both of us met our fund-raising deadlines of $3.7 million at the end of last year, and FWDA raised $4.1 million. We both exceeded our targets. One of the things that happens with a project like this is that once you are underway, it increases momentum when people see work going on.

LUKE CURTIS | VICE-PRESIDENT AND BOARD MEMBER | FOSS WATERWAY SEAPORT

Luke Curtis, Vice-President and Board Member, Foss Waterway Seaport
People have toiled on this waterfront for over 100 years to bring products into America and ship our products all over the world and to Alaska. We’ve got a bunch of people here today restoring this building to make it a reality. I think that’s what this project is all about — enhancing everyone’s access to the waterfront of this city, where the waterfront is such an important part of our heritage. It’s also celebrating the working waterfront access.

We completed phase one of our campaign in terms of making a seaport a reality. It’s a phase I call the ‘horizontal front’ — restoring the dock, the wharf, and underpinnings of this building, and creating an esplanade. Our part is to take that work, expand it, and make it a first-class venue with public access, boat shop, education classrooms, an exhibit hall that celebrates the working heritage of our area, and a public entity.

The next phase of our project will require $14.2 million to make that a reality. I’m pleased to say we carried over $2.2 million from the first phase of our campaign. That leaves us $12 million to raise to complete the interior of this building, provide some money for float enhancement, and pay for operations through 2010. Our goal is to complete that process and be back in here in a building is complete and alive by spring 2010.

We’re starting the campaign formally today. But in reality we’ve obviously been working on it awhile. Our overall goal between now and the end of the year is to raise $1.4 million. That’s our capital campaign.

Foss Waterway Seaport marked a milestone Thursday as it kicked off construction of a 368-foot Esplanade and repairs to an aged wharf, both part of a larger $23 million overall renovation of the Seaport -- formerly known as the Working Waterfront Museum. In June, the museum closed its doors to make way for the current renovation, which is expected to be completed in late-spring -- in time for Tall Ships 2008. (PHOTO BY TODD MATTHEWS)

Todd Matthews is editor of the Tacoma Daily Index and recipient of an award for Outstanding Achievement in Media from the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation for his work covering historic preservation in Tacoma and Pierce County. He has earned four awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, including third-place honors for his feature article about the University of Washington’s Innocence Project; first-place honors for his feature article about Seattle’s bike messengers; third-place honors for his feature interview with Prison Legal News founder Paul Wright; and second-place honors for his feature article about whistle-blowers in Washington State. His work has also appeared in All About Jazz, City Arts Tacoma, Earshot Jazz, Homeland Security Today, Jazz Steps, Journal of the San Juans, Lynnwood-Mountlake Terrace Enterprise, Prison Legal News, Rain Taxi, Real Change, Seattle Business Monthly, Seattle magazine, Tablet, Washington CEO, Washington Law & Politics, and Washington Free Press. He is a graduate of the University of Washington and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications. His journalism is collected online at wahmee.com.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Related Stories