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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Decision on whether to cover U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park delayed a month

Guy Michelson of Berger Partnership presents a rendering of the U.S. Pavilion as seen on Thursday, June 8, 2017, at Spokane City Hall in Spokane, Wash. The plan includes terraced gardens and walkways beneath an uncovered canopy. The Spokane Park Board voted to defer an answer on whether the pavilion should be covered until next month. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Guy Michelson of Berger Partnership presents a rendering of the U.S. Pavilion as seen on Thursday, June 8, 2017, at Spokane City Hall in Spokane, Wash. The plan includes terraced gardens and walkways beneath an uncovered canopy. The Spokane Park Board voted to defer an answer on whether the pavilion should be covered until next month. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

The decision whether to cover the U.S. Pavilion in Riverfront Park will not be made for at least another month.

The Spokane Park Board, after looking at a design proposal that included terraced gardens and walkways leading to the central mast of the structure but would have left the pavilion’s frame exposed, voted unanimously Thursday to table a decision until more information was available about the cost of hanging a new cover.

“I’d like to have that, at least on a partial cover,” said Steve Salvatori, a current park board member and former city councilman in the years Spokane developed a plan for Riverfront Park’s renovation. “Because I’m not willing to throw the whole baby out, based on maybe it won’t work. I’d kind of like to know.”

In 2014, voters approved a $64.3 million bond measure to fund the park renovations, with boosters using a guiding plan that included a cover for the structure.

The design currently under review – which is the product of months of work by a design team made up of Berger Partnership, NAC Architecture, Garco Construction and a New York-based art firm – does not include the covering envisioned by the guiding plan. Instead, initial sketches envision an uncovered canopy permitting views of the surrounding park.

That prompted Thursday’s vote, which would have amended the guiding plan’s language to call for “partial covering and strategic shading,” rather than a “resheathing” of the structure, as had been previously stated.

Guy Michaelsen, a principal architect with Berger, said after the vote to delay that the team would honor the decision of the park board, but that the existing canopy provides a unique experience other downtown attractions and gathering spaces can’t match.

“Spokane does not have a shortage of great, enclosed spaces,” Michaelsen said, referring to the Spokane Arena, the convention center and the proposed sportsplex on the Spokane River’s north bank. “Our hand, as designers, is going to be stronger not having it covered.”

A majority of the board, including Salvatori, City Councilman Mike Fagan and others, agreed with most of those testifying at a Thursday afternoon meeting that there wasn’t enough information about how much a new cover would cost to justify abandoning the idea this early in the design phase.

“It’s really obvious to me that this was part of a selling point to get this ballot measure approved by the voters,” Fagan said. “And if they are expecting a covered pavilion, then we need to do what we can, do our due diligence, to either provide it to them or give them the reason why we’re not going to be able to do that.”

A recent study showed the pavilion’s rigging, which dates back to its original construction for Expo ’74, was structurally sound, but the report didn’t take into account hanging new material after forty years of inactivity, Michaelsen said. The board also received a cost estimate of $4.5 million just to cover the material that could be purchased to cover the structure, but that figure didn’t take into account any need to reinforce the rigging, said Clancy Welsh, Garco’s president.

The total construction budget for the pavilion is just under $15 million, said Leroy Eadie, parks director for the city of Spokane.

Before the vote to delay a decision, Susan Traver, chair of the park board’s finance subcommittee, cautioned against further stoppages in the development of a pavilion plan and said there were greater possibilities for the building if left uncovered.

“What do you do, you put a museum in there, maybe?” Traver said. “None of the exciting things, I think, happen inside of a covered, totally resheathed pavilion.”

Traver said she did believe shade could be incorporated into the structure. Michaelsen said after the meeting any vegetation or terraces would likely not work in a completely covered space.

The full park board is scheduled to meet next July 13, and the question will once again be put before the whole panel.

Those testifying about the proposal Thursday included David Evans, chief site designer for Expo ’74 who counts among his ideas the stair steps near the current convention center leading down to the Spokane River, and the suspension bridges connecting the former Canada Island to the north and south banks of the Spokane River. Acknowledging that the original planning team left future generations with the difficult decision of what to do with the pavilion building, he urged members not to get too hung up on the details.

“I can say that the covering is not what’s going to make your park fantastic,” Evans said.

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