Washougal officials have high hopes for Town Center Revitalization despite $970K shortfall

New 'urban greenspace' in downtown Washougal project to include splash pad, play area, dog park

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The city of Washougal’s Town Center Revitalization project is illustrated in a graphic presented to the Washougal City Council, Monday, Feb. 12, 2024. At top: The city of Washougal’s Town Center Revitalization project would feature a children’s play area just north of the Washougal Community Center. (Contributed graphics courtesy of the city of Washougal)

Washougal City Manager David Scott is confident that the City will be able to complete its Town Center Revitalization project despite a $970,000 budget shortfall.

The City has procured $8.15 million from various sources for the project, which is estimated to cost $9.12 million. Construction is expected to start in 2025.

“We’re a little short, but there’s a pretty healthy contingency of $800,000, so it really just depends as we refine the design,” Scott said during the Washougal City Council’s workshop Monday, Feb. 11. “I have a high level of confidence that we’ll be able to deliver this project and do something really special in our Town Center, even though it is costing more than what we thought it would.”

City officials introduced their plans for the project in May 2022, telling Council members that an enhanced civic center will provide vital enhancements to the quality of life in Washougal and promote economic growth.

According to the City, the project will result in the creation of enhanced outdoor community space, an off-leash dog park, a pocket park with potential splash pad/water feature, and improved and expanded public parking near the Fort Vancouver Regional Library’s (FVRL) future library building, the Washougal Community Center and City Hall.

“The goals of this project are to provide vital enhancements to the quality of life in Washougal and promote economic growth by drawing the surrounding communities to an enhanced civic center to share all that Washougal has to offer — educationally, culturally and professionally,” according to the City. “New urban greenspace will provide opportunities for passive recreation that supports individuals of all ages and will provide new opportunities for recreational programming at the adjacent community center. Improved access to the FVRL (library) and nearby Town Center businesses will serve as a major catalyst for redevelopment, encouraging new businesses to locate in this area and individuals to stay, play and shop in Washougal.”

Jeremy Fick, a civil engineer for Vancouver-based Robertson Fick Engineering PC, and Nate Otani, a principal designer for Shapiro-Didway, a Portland-based landscape architecture firm, provided City leaders and Council members a first look at new, three-dimensional renderings of the project during the Council’s workshop.

“The design updates are taking shape,” Otani said. “All of the background data, research and community input helped us take the spatial use diagram (shown to Council members in November 2023) and start to put a form and a design language to it.”

The consultants explained some of the elements shown in the new renderings.

“We have the splash pad and entry plaza that creates that greater connection to ‘C’ Street,” Otani said. “We have the pocket park that we heard through the survey was preferred to have its own designated space. The outdoor recreation area spills out from the community center, allowing for a variety of uses and events. We were able to bring a play area into the project with the efficiency gained from abandoning ‘D’ Street. And we still have the large dog park and small dog park along the northern portion of the site.”

The design and architecture firms developed a list of 10 guiding principles for the project based on input from City staff members, stakeholder meetings and online survey responses, Otani said.

“Those guiding principles are ‘community,’ ‘gathering,’ ‘multi-use,’ ‘natural character,’ ‘accessible,’ ‘inclusive,’ ‘resilient,’ ‘sustainable’ and ‘multigenerational,’” he said. “From that, a design narrative was created to function as the ‘north star’ for the project. We really want to ensure that you embrace and celebrate and support the community of Washougal. We want to highlight its vibrant history, and the traditions and practices that have helped shape its unique cultural identity. Washougal is set in a majestic region, and all these distinctive characteristics and components really tie (together) and create a distinctive character for the city. We really want to aim to bring a forward-looking initiative that resonates with the current and future generations, and tells the story of Washougal for years to come.”

The projected cost of the project increased as a result of modifications requested by community members, according to Scott. The City posted an online survey, which received more than 500 responses, and held a virtual open house event in November 2023.

Scott said the cost of the project increased after consultants incorporated feedback from the community.

“I heard someone say, ‘This is more than (it was) two years ago.’ It is, because the project is more,” Scott said. “The team heard all the feedback from the surveys and stakeholder meetings and tried to incorporate everything that was said. There’s more to this than what was estimated before. … This has been a really high priority for the Council, and so we have been ‘all in’ to try to make this happen and to try to make a big splash with this project. This is a signature plaza project to revitalize our town center.”

Fick said 23 items could be “value engineered” to save around $470,000.

“Most of those represent some scaling back,” Fick said. “We didn’t really want to start with any wholesale changes at this point in time … Maybe we scale back some of the pavers by 20 percent, or we scale back the size of the shelters by 20 percent. The deficit, after accepting these value engineering ideas, would be closer to a half a million dollars.”

Fick said cost estimates also include $800,000 for contingencies.

“(That) means that if we ignore the contingency, we’re actually under budget,” he said. “But we always included a contingency at this early stage because there’s going to be things that we haven’t gotten into yet just because we’re not to that level of detail.”

The city of Washougal’s Town Center Revitalization project will feature a splash pad feature and entry plaza (right) just east of Washougal City Hall.
The city of Washougal’s Town Center Revitalization project will feature a splash pad feature and entry plaza (right) just east of Washougal City Hall. Photo