Center plans may be in for a change

A host of question marks now surround the Enumclaw Welcome Center, a project that has long been on the city’s agenda.

For a decade, Enumclaw has been digging for grant money to build a facility that would serve, first and foremost, as an interpretive center for guests heading east to visit Mount Rainier. The facility also has been viewed as the new home for the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce and its visitor center, as well as the local offices of the National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service.

Most recent developments were the decision to build the center on city-owned land between the Pete’s Pool fieldhouse and the entrance to the Enumclaw Golf Course, along with the securing of federal funds to build a transit center adjacent to the Welcome Center. The Park Service has stated its goal of reducing the number of vehicles entering Mount Rainier and the transit center, where organized tours could haul bus loads of visitors, was seen as a logical way to accomplish that goal.

Plans have been made and drawings rendered for a two-story building on the city site fronting state Route 410 just east of Farman Road.

Now, it appears those plans might have to be scrapped.

The latest discussions taking place at city council meetings center around the fact that grant money cannot be used for the building of office space – contrary to what was originally believed. Also, it is thought the agencies that agreed to occupy the building are perhaps scaling back their desired space.

As a result, the plans for a two-story building might be out the window.

It was expected that the Welcome Center situation would be discussed during Monday night’s gathering of the Enumclaw City Council.

In the informational packet they received days prior to the meeting, council members were given a cost breakdown by Mike Thomas, the city’s director of community development. He noted the city will need to fund part of the Welcome Center up front, later recovering the money through the lease arrangement with tenants. For a two-story building, the city’s up-front cost would be about $748,000, Thomas noted; for a one-story structure with smaller office spaces, the cost would be about $319,000, he wrote.

The city is commited to making the project work and is planning on 2010 construction, Mayor John Wise has said.

If the project were to be scrapped, the city would be required to pay back the money already spent in the planning process. That figure is estimated at approximately $500,000.

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