The Richland Public Facilities District Board now is considering building the Hanford Reach Interpretive Center in two pieces to avoid further delay while project leaders continue raising money.
The board called a special meeting Wednesday to start talks about how to proceed with the project given the challenges of fundraising in the current economic climate.
Interpretive center CEO Lisa Toomey and board member Nick Ceto recently met with architects Jones & Jones in Seattle to talk about what options the building design allows so that construction can start with the money the facilities district already has in the bank.
Toomey summarized some of the project's history for the board, including how much money has been spent so far.
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Of the $25 million raised, about $13 million was spent from the time the project was conceived in 2002 until the end of 2011, she said.
About $7.6 million was spent on the Columbia Point south site that was abandoned in 2009 after project leaders learned they couldn't clear a set of federal permitting hurdles.
That money includes not only permitting costs and work at the site, but the cost of designing the building and exhibits, Toomey said.
About $2.9 million has been spent on facilities district operations, including the cost of staff and office space.
The district spent $1.6 million developing the current site in the west end of Columbia Park, and another $850,000 on operations related to that site, Toomey said.
The district now has $12 million available for construction, with $3 million of that committed toward the first phase of construction involving installation of utility systems and construction of a driveway.
The district broke ground on the first phase in October, and is working with the city of Richland to finalize grants for the utility and site preparation work.
Toomey said since taking the CEO job in January, she has had extensive meetings with people in the Tri-City community, all of whom supported building the museum itself in phases if that's what is necessary to get construction moving.
"The response without exception is that we need to get this building built," she said.
Ceto told the board that a preliminary evaluation of the building design by the architects showed it would be feasible to build about half of the 61,000-square-foot museum as a self-contained structure with the capability of adding on later.
And it wouldn't require a major redesign, although the board would have to look at how to move around some of the planned functions to fit into the space initially available, he said.
No estimate was available Wednesday for what that half of the building would cost. Ceto said that is something that the architects would develop as more details emerge.
The board ended the meeting by forming two subcommittees to have further meetings with the architects and to develop a revised business plan for the museum if it is built in two segments.
The board next meets March 19.