By Kim Judge
September 15, 2006
I am encouraged to see so much support for the underlying concept of the White Cliff project - a community center that would provide a much-needed home for vital senior and arts programs. Even as people question the timing of the project, or just need more facts about what's going to be on the ballot on October 3rd, it's really heartening to see such widespread understanding of why this project is important.
G. J. Williams highlights a number of important questions about the White Cliff project, and as a long-time project volunteer, I'd like to provide some clarification.
The attention that the White Cliff Center project has attracted in recent weeks is the result of an extensive public process and a tremendous amount of work over a number of years:
Both senior and arts groups have been actively researching their options to address pressing space needs for years comparing available sites, assessing needs, estimating costs, etc. (In fact, Senior Services inquired about the looming availability of White Cliff over a decade ago.)
After the school was vacated, Historic Ketchikan held a series of public meetings about White Cliff in the winter of 2004, in its goal to secure an adaptive reuse of White Cliff School that will preserve this building as a vibrant community presence.
In spring, 2005, senior and arts groups both recognized the benefit of a shared facility, and decided to investigate White Cliff together.
In March, 2005, the Borough Assembly adopted a resolution that provided the opportunity for senior and arts groups to conduct a site review of White Cliff. The project has been on the Borough s agenda numerous times since then.
The White Cliff Center Steering Committee held public meetings in September, 2005, and February, 2006, in addition to numerous meetings and work sessions with user groups.
Since March of 2005, the planning process has been extensive:
The team of architects involved included Ketchikan's Welsh-Whiteley Architects and Fairbanks firm Charles Bettisworth & Company. Collectively, the architects have experience in historic preservation and extensive experience working in Alaska (including Southeast) since 1976, working on projects up to $25M in construction value. Locally, Bettisworth & Co. designed the Southeast Alaska Discovery Center. Their experience in senior-related projects includes the planning for the Fairbanks Retirement Community, and the Denali Center - a long-term care unit at the Fairbanks Hospital.
The project team also included a professional construction cost estimating firm that has years of experience with Southeast projects. The resulting $14.8-million cost estimate includes approximately 30% in contingencies, including an estimator s contingency, an escalation contingency, and a 15% owner's contingency.
The project team also included structural engineering firm that both examined the building on-site, and did wind-load calculations to verify that the building was capable of withstanding the conditions here. With proper maintenance, a major renovation (such as what we've planned) should allow the building to function for another 30-years before major system work is required (mechanical, roof, etc.). The structural system is sound and can be fully utilized in a renovated building, with upgrades to meet current codes.
Staff, board members, community members, and other volunteers participated in numerous meetings and work sessions to participate in the design process, to make sure that the needs of their respective organizations were addressed.
The conceptual plan that resulted was endorsed by Ketchikan Senior Citizens Services, Ketchikan Theatre Ballet, First City Players, and the Ketchikan Area Arts & Humanities Council in February, 2006.
There are a few reasons why - now that the project has been thoroughly researched - that timely action by this community is crucial:
We have a time-limited opportunity.
The old Main School is one example of a missed chance to do something
constructive with an old building, and it would be a shame if
White Cliff sat around waiting for years, while we tried to figure
out what to do and when to do it. We have a plan now, and an
I am excited about the project that we ve developed, and what it will do for our community. Like Mr. Williams, I encourage you to get more information. If you have questions, please contact us! Current members of the White Cliff Center Steering Committee include Jean Bartos, Eric Bjella, Deb Clark, Kim Judge, Robert McClory, Elaine Patton, Alaire Stanton, Laurie Thomas, Jim Van Altvorst, Terry Wanzer, and Ed Zastrow. Marguerite Auger, Jackie Beasley, Elizabeth Nelson are advisory members. Sara Lawson is the project director.
And, check out the Frequently Asked Questions on the project website: www.ketchikanarts.org/whitecliff
I'd like to thank all of the people who've offered their time, enthusiasm, and expertise over the years - we have an opportunity to make this project happen, and I encourage you to find out more, and to support this effort!
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