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Velkommen til Poulsbo’s future city hall

POULSBO — Citizens packed Poulsbo’s city council chambers Wednesday night to view the latest plans for a new city hall.

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade and representatives from Lewis Architecture gave a spacing schematic rundown, showcasing how the new $12.4 million civic structure will fit on the roughly .6-acre site at Third Avenue and Moe Street.

The more than 40 attendees studied the six different planning boards on display and had the opportunity to ask questions of the architects, Quade and members of the city council.

The designs detailed an angled, 30,000-square-foot, four-story structure facing south and west toward historic downtown. The structure’s first story, and possibly part of the second, will contain parking. Seventy-five stalls are required by zoning regulations — more than double what the current city hall now provides — and the city plans to meet that regulation.

Because the topography of the site includes a 26-foot grade, architect Ross Jamieson said the first two stories of the new hall will be built into the hillside, so that only two stories will appear above ground along Third, lessening the perceived height of the structure and allowing it to better fit in with the residential neighborhood to the east.

In fact, the building could have two very different appearances, depending on which side is in view. Jamieson said while architects will work to establish a strong civic presence on the commercial side, the part of the hall facing east will reflect influence from its smaller, residential surroundings.

Third Avenue resident Sandy Kienholz, who has lived on the street for 18 years, expressed her desire for the center’s effect on her neighborhood to remain small-scale. Her home sits directly across the street from the site.

“It’s very important to me that it stay as residential as possible,” she said.

Kienholz appreciated Quade’s and the architects’ sensitivity and explanation of planning so far. The informational open house did help to allay some fears, though she still has concerns regarding parking, traffic and the view from homes on Third. She said Quade personally sent her e-mails offering updates as planning progressed, an act Kienholz was grateful for. Though she has reservations regarding the size of the structure and its ability to blend in, as long as the city continues to keep the public involved, she thinks the project can be a success.

“I think they’re going about it the right way,” she said.

Other residents offered their suggestions, including for the city and architects to look at historic photos of Poulsbo to give the building a uniquely Little Norway feel.

Quade concurred.

“It’s not going to be Pacific Northwest modern. It’s truly going to be Poulsbo,” she said.

Plans to extend a raised outdoor plaza theme from the site to Jensen Way to tie the building into downtown are also being developed, as are ideas for a possible roof garden section and clock tower.

Both the architects and city officials said the structure will not appear as a big, industrialized box.

“We’re looking for ways with the design to really make it a part of downtown,” Jamieson said.

Some questioned drivers’ ability to access the parking levels, as the entrance is slated for Bjermland Place, the alley to the west of the site.

Possible options include making a section of the alley, which is now a one-way alley, into a two-way street. And while Quade admitted traffic workings have not yet been nailed down, the city is keeping in mind the impact the structure will have. An upcoming traffic study will provide answers as to what, if anything, needs to be done on Moe and Third, including adding street parking or making Third a one-way.

Jamieson said Lewis Architecture was able to reuse work done by BLRB Architects of Tacoma, the firm that began designs for a 10th Avenue city hall. Recycling and updating the work allowed Lewis to get a jump start on the project, and Quade reiterated the money spent on those initial planning phases was not wasted. Jamieson also said placing city hall on such a small piece of land, and stacking stories instead of sprawling them, is an environmentally friendly bonus.

When asked about future expandability, both Jamieson and Quade said that, too, is an issue the city is keeping in mind.

“We’re looking at how this building can accommodate our needs for the next 50 years,” Quade said.

Space initially dedicated to courts could provide extra room in the future.

“The program right now is targeting a pretty long term horizon,” Jamieson added.

He said the next step is to plug the city’s various department’s into the building to work out functional needs. Details about various materials and the roof line have yet to be addressed.

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