Poulsbo extends lease for its future museum

POULSBO — As city employees and citizens anticipate the long-awaited decision on a new city hall, another group in Poulsbo is forced to put on hold a project that has already been stalled for years.

The Poulsbo Historical Society, which has long envisioned constructing an historical museum on Jensen Way across from the existing city hall, received an extension on its lease for the land Wednesday night. The amendment increased its term from 25 years to 30 years with two, 30-year renewal options. Though it was extended to provide the society with improved fund-raising capabilities, PHS president Bob Hawkinson said primary collections cannot begin until a city hall decision is made, as a museum could now become part of the city hall construction plans.

“We just have to wait and see what choices the city council makes,” he said. “If you’re trying to equip a shell that’s one thing. If you’re trying to build and equip a shell, that’s another.”

The land was first set aside in 1999, when the Poulsbo City Council allocated $28,000 from lodging taxes for the project. The land was paid off in 2003, and construction was first expected to begin in 2004. After terminating a contract with a Seattle architect firm in April of that year, the society has been unable to bring the process to completion. Though there have been many delays, the PHS still hopes to provide Poulsbo’s history with a permanent home.

“We fit into the puzzle and it might not be that plot of land,” PHS curator Erica Varga said. “We have the design of the interior of the museum... we just need to build it.”

Hawkinson said once the city hall decision is made, the society can start down the appropriate fund-raising path.

“We’ll begin as soon as the city hall issue is decided,” he said. “There’s different types of fund-raising mechanisms... it depends on what our needs are.”

Hawkinson said what many residents don’t realize is even with building alongside a new city hall, the society would still be required to provide funding. Sharing storage space and heating costs with the city could save the PHS money, he said.

“It would probably be cheaper for us to go the city hall route,” Hawkinson said. “We’re supposed to pay our share.”

Whether or not the city includes a museum in its construction plans, the society will begin fund raising for capital construction once a decision is made. If it’s not included with the new city hall, the extended lease will allow for better funding options.

“You can’t fund raise on a 25-year ground lease,” Hawkinson said. “People won’t donate, foundations won’t give you grant money. That’s the purpose of the lease extension.”

Poulsbo Mayor Kathryn Quade, who brought the topic to the city council’s table, said the lease will provide leeway for the society in finishing what it has started.

“Basically, this will allow the historical museum to extend their deadlines on their timeline,” she said. “I know the historical museum society appreciates it.”

Hawkinson said the society has a grant writer ready to start once given a green light.

“Any sort of capital campaign is going to be a blend of grant applications, private funding, perhaps even government loans, not just appeal to the public,” he said. “There’s just so many options.

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