The budget for the final, signature piece of Riverfront Park’s redevelopment is growing, but officials say that’s all according to plan.
The Spokane Park Board unanimously approved $23.6 million Thursday for the reconstructed U.S. Pavilion and its grounds, a figure that includes interest earnings on taxpayer-supported bonds for work in Riverfront Park and a bridge refund that is being paid by utility taxes. That figure is likely to continue to grow before construction is finished and the attraction opens in the fall, but the project is pulling money from two accounts of the publicly funded $64 million renovation of the 100-acre park in the middle of downtown Spokane. Both of those accounts have money set aside for enhancements, such as the lighting and pavement improvements approved this week, parks officials said.
“We’re on track, and we’re on budget,” said Garrett Jones, acting director of Parks and Recreation for the city of Spokane.
The new contracted amount with Garco Construction, the company handling reconstruction of the landmark built for Expo ’74 and one of the last major attractions scheduled to open in the new park, reflects several changes that were requested by the public and negotiated among park staff, members of the Park Board and elected city officials, Jones said. That includes an additional $2 million that was inserted into the budget for the pavilion in August 2017, as the Park Board and other branches of city government clashed on whether to replace the structure’s cover that was removed just a few years after the world’s fair.
“There was increased bond interest that we realized, and other reimbursables including grants,” Jones said. “We took a hard look at that budget and decided to make those adjustments.”
That $2 million makes up a portion of the $4.3 million in additional costs that have been added to the project since initial design and construction plans were drafted in summer 2017. The money is being spent on partial shade panels and illumination “blades” that hang from the exposed cable netting, which studies showed likely wouldn’t be able to withstand the weight of a new cover. It’s also being used to build a viewing platform above the new pavilion’s floor.
An additional $750,000 was dedicated to the project through reimbursements from the city’s utilities department, which agreed to pay $6.6 million to cover the costs of replacing what’s known as the south channel bridge on Howard Street. That work was originally to be paid with park bonds but is now being covered by utility fees paid by city residents.
The remaining costs are covered by amounts set aside for each specific project in contingency funding, Jones said. The latest budget totals published by park officials from January indicate about $1.3 million is left in the account for the U.S. Pavilion building.
Garco also was granted the construction contract to build the central promenade that will extend from the so-called “blue bridge” on the bank’s north shore past the pavilion and ending at the Looff Carrousel and Rotary Fountain near Howard Street. That work is expected to cost $4.1 million, and it’s been included in the parks department’s accounting for the pavilion project, despite appearing as a separate budget item on public documents detailing the redevelopment’s progress.
The additional expenses are authorized by four entities, Jones said. After approval by park staff, expenses are reviewed by an executive team overseeing the park work that includes Jones, Spokane City Councilman Mike Fagan, a representative from Avista Utilities Corp., former Spokane Utilities Director Rick Romero and four members of the Spokane Park Board. A Park Board committee focused on Riverfront Park then reviews the expenses, followed by the full Park Board, which gave its approval Thursday.
The expenses agreed to Thursday, totaling $634,000, include improvements to the new facility’s kitchen, which will benefit caterers feeding crowds in the new facility, said Berry Ellison, the landscape architect serving as program manager for the park’s redevelopment, in a presentation to the Park Board. The improvements, which he called “value-adds,” include 12-foot-tall steel wayfinding signs near the pavilion and promenade as well as concrete paving for a northeast entrance to the building that will comply with disability access laws.
“It’s where the pavilion and the Washington Street bridge connect,” Ellison said. “And it’s got to be ADA accessible, so we can get across the river from the parking lots and back into the pavilion. It took an awful lot of concrete to make that happen.”
Concerns have been raised by past Park Board members about growing budgets for other attractions, and park planners have said they have had to move money around to cover unexpected costs for both the skating ribbon and the Looff Carrousel. Jones told the Park Board that wasn’t the case with the pavilion, which has been under construction since the beginning of 2018.
“Every line item and change order that you see is in the pavilion and promenade budgets, in contingencies,” Jones said. “They’re not being pulled from any other project in the redevelopment.”
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