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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Imax theater demolition and other Riverfront Park construction projects about to start

The final design of the U.S. Pavilion is still undecided, but buildings around the landmark structure will begin to come down next month.

Garco Construction, the project’s general contractor, was issued six demolition permits for Riverfront Park buildings, part of the city’s ongoing renovation of the central city park.

The Imax building and its annex, the cover for the ice rink and the east pavilion will come down in November, readying the park for its next phase of construction.

The building between the Imax and pavilion, called the West Administration Building, will see partial demolition as part of its renovation.

“The demolition is really selective, for areas we know are going to be demolished, like the Imax and the former science building,” said Fianna Dickson, spokeswoman for the parks department. The work is being done ahead of the spring construction schedule to “keep our timeline nice and tidy.”

Dickson noted that the city’s Park Board will consider for approval some “very preliminary design” for the pavilion at its November meeting, which will include lighting, shading and “an elevation experience, all in connection to the river.”

The pavilion “illumination” will use LED lighting and is intended to make it a “lantern for the community,” according to the 2014 master plan for the park’s redevelopment.

The shade and shelter aspect of the design has been controversial, since it is likely the pavilion will not be recovered, an action some say was promised by city leaders during the park bond’s 2014 campaign. The board will consider partial shade canopies within the pavilion.

The “elevation experience” will include a bridge and 35-foot-high platform offering views of the river and park.

The decision to demolish the Imax theater came in September 2016, but its fate had been discussed for years. A master plan for the park’s redevelopment, agreed to in 2014, called for closing the Imax because of declining revenues. After an attendance peak in 2005, the attraction’s revenues plummeted following the opening of the Imax screen at the AMC cinema in nearby River Park Square and the loss of licensing to show big-budget Hollywood films in 2009.

Internal park numbers show the theater making a profit of more than $67,000 in 2005, compared with a loss of more than $164,000 in 2012.

Once the Imax is demolished, nothing else can be built in that spot; current environmental standards, which were not in place when the theater opened in 1978, prevent shoreline construction that close to the river.

Dickson said the city will work to let park users know of detours, since the demolition will begin before any current construction projects are complete. The ice ribbon on the southwest corner of the park is expected to be open by the holidays, but the area around the Looff Carrousel won’t be complete until spring.

“We’ll definitely work hard to keep pathways pretty clear,” Dickson said. “Those first few weeks when you’re detouring pedestrians, it’s just really tough. There will be no other fence taken down before this.”

The pavilion is being done as a design-build project between Garco Construction, Berger Partnership and NAC Architecture. The process, which requires state approval, allows the project designer and general contractor to work collaboratively from the start, cutting down on the time-intensive bidding process.