Art foundation offers tiered plan to City Council

Work could commence as early as April if the Gresham City Council accepts a proposed two-tiered approach to completing the Center for the Arts Plaza.

The Center for the Arts Foundation presented the council on Tuesday, March 11, with the plan that would allow the city to make a more secure commitment.

'This tier one proposal basically limits the city's exposure to the funds on hand,' said Mike Bennett, city councilor. 'It's so the city doesn't over-commit, if for whatever reason the foundation isn't able to garner all of their pledges and donations to continue the project in early spring of next year.'

The foundation is expected to present the plan in a formal comprehensive proposal at the council business meeting in two weeks.

'The city really needs this, and not just that we need a plaza, but we need that sense of accomplishment and progress,' said Shirley Craddick, city councilor.

'This city needs a win-win so bad,' said Carol Nielsen-Hood, city councilor. 'I think we need to move ahead and take a leap of faith for a change and get going on something.'

The plaza - Northeast Second and Third streets and between Hood and Kelly avenues - will be a community-gathering place and venue for live performances on now-vacant property that was donated to the community by the Fourier-Larson family. It also will include a tent structure at the east end of the site that can be used for different community functions, such as live theater or wedding receptions.

The city has committed to spend $1 million in local, state and federal dollars to build the plaza. The art center's supporters are working to raise another $1.5 million in private donations for amenities and to erect a performance tent.

The Center for the Arts Foundation - which is raising private funds for the center - presented the council with a plan to complete the plaza in two tiers.

The first tier would consist of three things: removal of contaminated soil from the site; installation of off-site public utilities; and installation of utility infrastructure on site. That tier could start in April and be completed by July 31, said Dwight Unti, chair of the capital campaign task force for the Center for the Arts Foundation.

The second tier would involve the construction of the rest of the plaza as proposed, which would commence in early 2009 and take several months.

'By tiering the construction process, it then also allows additional time between the two tiers to raise additional private funds,' Unti said. 'And also match those funds up with any additional resources that might be available from the city.'

Unti told the council that its capital campaign has reaped 'great success' in its early weeks - primarily because the whole community supports it, and not just a few big hitters.

'We are raising funds, every day and every week, from just a broad group of people,' Unti said. 'And the amounts are coming in small, and large.'

They also have a number of potential corporate contributors too.

'What tells me that this is going to work, is the fact that it's community-based, it's broad-based, that's lots of different people who are willing to open their checkbook up,' Unti said.

Other business

Another important city project - the proposed Gradin Community Sports Park complex - isn't quite ready to begin. The city is about $3 million short of necessary funds for an interim park plan.

The City Council in February had OK'd an interim plan to build two softball and two soccer fields at the site. But now finding that it is short of funds, the council has asked the park design team to look at other interim options for the park.

'What we learned is that even for the interim plan, we don't have enough money,' Craddick said. 'And so we now need to look at what else we can do.'

The Gradin Sports Park, a 32-acre site at Palmquist Road and Hogan Drive, was purchased by the city in 1992, and a previous master plan was adopted in 2001, but initial development stalled.

'We want to get it started, I mean how many years has it been,' Craddick said. 'We want to do something to hopefully create some momentum.'

The park master plan includes four softball fields, two grass soccer fields and two artificial turf soccer fields, along with a 28,000-square-foot community fitness center, a skate park, horseshoe courts and numerous play structures. Total price tag: nearly $30 million.

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