Richland PFD approves agreement for Hanford Reach Interpretive Center fund

By Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMarch 18, 2013 

The Richland Public Facilities District board Monday approved an agreement establishing a facility contingency fund for the planned Hanford Reach Interpretive Center. The pact now heads to the Richland City Council.

Lisa Toomey, Reach chief executive officer, said the facilities district's attorney feels the agreement is "more than fair," and she agrees.

Having the fund is required by the sublease the district has with the city of Richland. It will "help mitigate any unexpected financial issues which may interfere with the operation of the center," according to a draft copy of the pact.

The long-awaited interpretive center is planned for the west end of Columbia Park; the Army Corps of Engineers owns the property and leases it to the city, which then subleases it to the public facilities district.

Under the agreement, the district will contribute at least $3.60 per gross square foot of building before the center opens, and then again each year for the next four years until the fund has an amount equal to at least $18 per gross square foot of building.

The pact defines "gross square foot of building" as the ground floor plus "50 percent of the actual area of any additional levels including full height basements but excluding crawl spaces or elevator pits."

The agreement also talks about adding more money if there's an expansion, up to a total fund amount of $1 million.

The first building on the Reach center's campus is set to open next year, totaling 14,000 square feet with a 10,000-square-foot basement. It's to include two galleries, a film viewing room, a multipurpose room and a great hall looking out on the Columbia River.

The first phase of construction, which will include building roads, a parking lot and underground utilities, is under way. That site work also includes an amphitheater -- a feature that got a big boost earlier this month. The Columbia Center Rotary Charity announced a $300,000 donation, with the bulk of the money for the outdoor feature.

Some of the funds also will go toward a student-designed solar system project, which will involve placing sculptures representing planetary bodies along the Columbia River. The amphitheater is to have a criss-crossing arch sculpture representing the sun.

Reach officials also recently announced a tour program, with guided tours -- meals and transportation are included -- on topics from the Ice Age floods to local birds and flowers. Find out details at www.visitthereach.org.

The Richland City Council is expected to discuss the contingency fund agreement at a workshop session next week.

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