Poulsbo Historical Society finds a home in new City Hall

POULSBO — After almost 20 years of struggling, the Poulsbo Historical Society finally has a location and the means to create a museum. The society will claim a 1,000 square-foot piece of the new City Hall to house its museum. The lease agreement has yet to be finalized.

To help pay some of the operating costs of the new City Hall, Poulsbo will lease spaces in the 30,000 square-foot building.

“Well, we’re all excited about it,” Poulsbo Historical Society president Donna Jean Bruce said.

Some residents have expressed disdain with the new City Hall building and bringing the history of Poulsbo into it might make it a little more welcomed, Mayor Becky Erickson said. The city is looking to lease three floors of space — the possible joint Bainbridge court space being on the first floor, the Poulsbo museum occupying the second, leaving a 1,300 square-foot space available on the third floor for a government or quasi-government tenant.

“It’s not easy to be doing this in the current market,” Erickson said, referencing the plethora of retail space available in downtown Poulsbo.

The Historical Society’s quest for a location on which to build a museum has been arduous. In 2000, the city purchased a plot on Jensen Way which was leased to the society. The lot sits vacant because the society could not raise $3 million to build on the site. Now, the city is attempting to sell that lot for about $167,000 and, if the sale goes through, the money will go toward the estimated $500,000 needed to secure and equip the proposed space in the new City Hall.

Bruce and Erickson discussed the possibility of a museum in the new City Hall once Bruce found out the city council was considering leasing some sections. Erickson thought it was a great idea.

“It feels good, we haven’t signed on the dotted line yet,” Erickson said. “It helps us financially with the building and it’s also a really good thing to have in the city.”

In addition to selling the property, the city is granting the society a $33,000 discount to move into City Hall.

The discount is something the city provides for all community services contributing to a city mission, such as with Poulsbo’s Marine Science Center and the city library, Councilman Dale Rudolph said. The Poulsbo museum will purchase 500 square-feet and lease the other half.

“The idea that they will actually own some equity — that protects their investment,” Rudolph said.

The Poulsbo Historical Society is responsible for the remaining cost of $300,000. The society is banking on volunteer work to save money in tenant improvements — which include painting, partitions, furniture and displays.

“We do think there are people out there who are waiting for this,” Rudolph said.

Other funding includes donations and a state grant. The grant will cover roughly one-third of the $500,000 needed to fund the museum — about $167,000. If the society can raise donations of at least $100,000 by May 12, it will receive the full grant. The society has implemented a pledge option in its donation strategy allowing people to pledge money over the course of three to five years.

“I think the board feels like this is a shot we need to take and so they’re supposed to be out there hustling,” Rudolph said.

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