The ideas were written on yellow Post-its and fastened securely to posterboards throughout the room. The feedback ranged from adding a Red Lobster restaurant and a post office to building a “Founder’s Corner” and a permanent room acknowledging local history,
Welcome to the latest chapter of the Liberty Lake Civic Center.
The recommendation for an open house to discuss how to move forward with a plot of land in the middle of town came from the city’s Community Development committee, comprised of City Council representatives Josh Beckett, Keith Kopleson and Dan Dunne.
Kopelson said the goal was to gather feedback from residents about various phases of the project, including a potential buildout this spring that would add parking and upgrades for the Liberty Lake Farmers Market.
“We were talking about a way to get it out to the community,” Kopelson said. “We figured they could stop by, find out more and tell us what they think.”
Close to 50 people attended the open house at City Hall on March 28. The event ran nearly two hours and featured sketches of each segment of the construction with an opportunity for attendees to add their comments.
Pat Lutzenberger, who has lived in Liberty Lake for 15 years and is part of the municipal library board, said most of the people she has spoken to about the civic center support the idea. Other than City Hall, the Liberty Lake Sewer and Water building and conference space at a local hotel, Lutzenberger said the city lacks a central venue for fundraisers and other gatherings.
“We don’t have a place in Liberty Lake to hold some of our events,” she said.
In 2007, the city ran a $9.8 million capital facilities bond that would have increased the property tax rate to pay for a new civic center and library on the 6.4 acres of land purchased in 2005. The plans included amenities like an ampitheatre, walkways and landscaping improvements.
The vote – which needed a supermajority to pass – failed resoundingly, garnering less than 40 percent of ballots cast.
The city regrouped quickly after the defeat, however, moving ahead with the acquisition of a former industrial warehouse that would be converted into a new library and police station. The 27,000-square-foot venue opened in March 2009.
In the meantime, discussion concerning the 6.4 acres was scarce. Not until Steve Peterson returned as mayor this January did the project return as a prominent talking point at City Hall. In his first City Council meeting since being re-elected in the general election, Peterson referred to development of the plot as a priority of his administration while dusting off the architectural renderings of the future site.
“Hopefully, this will someday house a community center,” Peterson said on Jan. 3.
Not all representatives of the governing board were as enthused about the plans as the returning mayor, however. Some expressed concern that the civic center and other expenditures like increasing the payroll at the library included retaining a 3-percent utility tax that was initially installed to address a projected budget deficit.
At the open house, Beckett said the council “still needs to vote on a budget request” for the first phase of the project and said an argument still needs to be made to include the construction in the city’s capital facilities lineup.
“There still needs to be enough interest to make it a part of that list,” Beckett said.
On Feb. 24, Matt Jacoby of Bernardo Wills Architects – the company that drew up the original plans for the civic center prior to the 2007 vote – appeared before council with an overview of Phase 1. He described how the work would add 40 to 45 parking spaces to the Spokane Transit Authority lot just south of the Liberty Lake Farmers Market and bring upgrades to the curbside along Meadowwood Lane.
Doug Smith, Liberty Lake Community Development director, has said the first component of the project would cost in the neighborhood of $200,000. At the open house, Smith said a vote from council would be needed by the April 17 meeting in order to get out bids and begin construction by the spring.
During the open house, Peterson reiterated that the land in question symbolized “the heart of the community” and compared it to the Normandy Park area of west Seattle where he grew up. Passage of a capital facilities vote decades ago generated property tax revenue for a civic center that still stands today.
“They took an old piece of property down by the water and built this great city center,” Peterson said.
The mayor pointed to examples of city purchases over the years, including the golf course that became Trailhead at Liberty Lake and City Hall, as “preservations of space that have benefited the community.”
“That acreage we’re talking about for a city center could have been the site of a shopping center,” he said.