Public says they're still in support of Hanford Reach Interpretive Center

The Hanford Reach Interpretive Center project may have to be downsized even more, but it is worth doing, the public said during a workshop Monday.

About two dozen people attended a special session of the Richland Public Facilities District board to show interest and support for the project being considered for Columbia Park West in Kennewick.

There were no naysayers, and two of the Tri-Cities' more prominent businessmen, George Garlick and Bill Lampson, voiced strong support.

"I am personally totally committed to this project. We need to redefine and recommit," said Garlick, a Hanford developer. "There is no question in my mind this project will go forward and that all of us will pull together to make the Tri-Cities a wonderful place to live," he said.

Garlick said he has contacted several nationally recognized, outstanding construction companies in the Tri-Cities about working together to fix a cost and a timeframe for completing whatever the board decides should be built.

A letter from Bill Lampson, owner of Lampson International in Kennewick, stated he and "my colleagues" have fully agreed to help.

"The best and most prudent next step is to abandon the design in favor of bringing in a new local designer and designing something that is attractive, understated and smaller but enables us to deliver in the next 24 months on a promise made 10 years ago," the letter to the board stated.

Garlick said he would like to see construction begin by April.

Richard Reuther said he was concerned about scaling back the project and losing the grandness of what had been envisioned in the original $40.5 million concept.

"We want to strive, not have something that is understated," Reuther said.

Ron Kathren suggested other groups, such as the CREHST Museum and B Reactor, link with the Reach project and maybe even consider going for a bond issue to help financing.

John Herrig, an attorney from Kennewick, suggested having several buildings of 12,000 square feet each, arranged as a campus on four acres at Columbia Park West. Each building would be erected as a pre-engineered steel structure at less cost than what has been proposed, he said.

Herrig said each building would feature a unique aspect of the region, such as Hanford's Manhattan Project story, Ice Age floods, CREHST and a performing arts theater.

Gwen Leth, former director of CREHST, said the building exterior isn't as important as what is inside.

"Don't give up. It's what's inside that people will be attracted to," Leth said.

But Joel Rogo, a former member of the Richland PFD board, said the building exterior is important.

"You've got to have something that attracts people in," he said.

Fred Raab, board chairman, said a decision has to come within weeks, not months, or money now committed soon will be in jeopardy.

The board will begin meeting weekly at 4 p.m. in Richland City Hall throughout August, he said.

--John Trumbo: 582-1529; jtrumbo@tricityherald.com