Fort Worden Creative Alliance Announced



Port Townsend, WA — A NEW ERA HAS BEGUN TO SECURE A STABLE FUTURE FOR THE ARTS AT FORT WORDEN. Eight organizations—Centrum, Copper Canyon Press, Madrona MindBody Institute, Northwind Art, Port Townsend School of Woodworking, KPTZ Radio Port Townsend, Corvidae Press, and Rainshadow Recording, have formed the Creative Alliance of Fort Worden. The Creative Alliance is not a new organization but rather a commitment made by organizational leaders to advocate for their shared needs and values, collectively. As a team, they settled lease negotiations with the Fort Worden Public Development Authority (PDA), providing groundbreaking long-term lease agreements for the cultural programming partners at the beloved Port Townsend campus.  

“This is historic,” says Centrum’s executive director, Robert Birman. “Working in harmony with the new PDA, the State, and the City, we’re unified, committed to the future of Fort Worden, and stepping up to make significant capital investments in the state’s assets, and—by doing so— guarantee the possibility that the cultural programs and facilities that define this place, and our community of artists, will be here 50 to 100 years from now.”  

“The new leases represent a fundamental shift from the past and are an emblem of the strength and value of the partnership model at Fort Worden,” continued Birman. “The new 25-year lease terms effectively abolish the concept of rent in exchange for each organization’s agreement to maintain and renovate the historic WWI and WWII-era leased facilities—a proposition far exceeding the value of rent over the next 25 years. This is in our own self-interests, but also that of the State and the City,” said Birman, “together, we can rally regional and national support to make up for years of disinvestment in these precious spaces.”  

In all, 17 buildings are covered by the new lease terms. Based on an independent appraisal commissioned by State Parks, 14 of these are “class D” facilities, meaning that they suffer from severe deferred maintenance concerns. The other three—buildings 305,308, and 324—are newly refurbished, and unlike the others, do carry rent for the next 25 years from the lessees. Centrum and KPTZ Radio will share occupancy of Building 305, a 17,000 square foot facility which will soon to be the station’s new home and additional program and office space for Centrum. Northwind Art will lease Buildings 308 and 324, roughly 4,100 square feet combined, as expansion room for art classes, administration, and anticipated future fiber arts and ceramics programming. The Woodworking School will be leasing just under 11,500 square feet in other buildings to accommodate their rapidly growing and nationally-significant programs. The rest of the Creative Alliance members will remain in their current spaces under the new maintenance-and-restoration-based lease terms with PDA. Notably excluded in this deal are the Wheeler Theater and McCurdy Pavilion, which remain rental facilities for community use under the management of Fort Worden Hospitality. 


Artist rendering of new studio space in Makers Square


“We’re excited to bring significant and collective resources to bear, to not only solidify the Creative Alliance’s continual presence at the Fort for many years to come, but to expand our programs, revitalize and restore the historic programming facilities at the Park, and significantly reduce the deferred maintenance burden on the PDA,” said Teresa Verraes, executive director of Northwind Art. “We all depend on one another for our mutual success, and we intend for this visionary public-private partnership to flourish.”  

In 2021, Centrum commissioned an independent analysis from Seattle-based MENG Analysis of the true costs to maintain and restore the arts and culture program buildings at Fort Worden, which substantiated between $8.88 million and $13 million in immediate maintenance deficiencies as well as $4.8 million to $10.4 million in “predicted renewals” throughout the facilities. (Predicted renewals take into account the life expectancy of the internal systems and structures that support each building, such as HVAC, Fire Alarms, etc.) Centrum’s Robert Birman notes that the report is presented in 2021 dollars and does not yet account for prevailing wage adjustments. “These are conservative estimates,” says Birman, “meaning they are likely to be lower than what will be realized. The Alliance’s investments over 25 years will nearly certainly be much greater.”

“The vibrant organizations that provide amazing programs at Fort Worden are growing and are in need of more exhibition and classroom space,” said Heron Scott, executive director of the Port Townsend School of Woodworking, “we’re all ready to work for the common good,” says Scott, who serves as the Alliance liaison to the Fort Worden PDA Board. “We believe the opportunity to leverage the collective scale and impact of our reach, influence, and public and private support will open new avenues for long-term capital investment in the campus and newfound philanthropy. We’re confident that our entire community will see the long-lasting benefits in allowing us to lead these efforts to sustain Fort Worden for the public’s use. Our commitment will allow the PDA to focus on all the other needs outside of the cultural facilities, which are many. By working in true partnership, everyone wins.” 

TOP ROW from L-R: Heron Scott, PTSW; Reneee Klein, Madrona MindBody Institute; Robert Ambrose and Kate Ingram, KPTZ; far right David Timmons, Fort Worden PDA MIDDLE ROW: Joseph Bednarik, Copper Canyon Press; Rob Birman, Centrum; George Knotek, Copper Canyon Press BOTTOM ROW: Randy Arent, Corvidae Press; Teresa Verraes, Northwind Art
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