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Restroom with a view

It’s not just a  restroom – it’s a Waterfront Park Pavilion. A design charrette and brainstorming by an architectural firm yielded this concept for new facilities in the downtown park, with the restroom and showers in a building on the right, and a covered area for picknicking and other activities on the left. The sloped roofs would move rainwater to a central water feature. - Courtesy of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects
It’s not just a restroom – it’s a Waterfront Park Pavilion. A design charrette and brainstorming by an architectural firm yielded this concept for new facilities in the downtown park, with the restroom and showers in a building on the right, and a covered area for picknicking and other activities on the left. The sloped roofs would move rainwater to a central water feature.
— image credit: Courtesy of Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects

The latest design for a new Waterfront Park facility includes

a public pavilion.

Is bad news about a restroom best taken sitting down?

In any event, new facilities at Water­front Park are unlikely to be in service anytime soon; think Fourth of July, 2006 at the earliest.

The good news is, those facilities may offer much more than a restroom and shower – perhaps becoming a new “Waterfront Park Pavilion,” as envisioned by architects commissioned to advance a new design.

“With the money we have, I think this is the best product you could come up with,” said Lorenz Eber, a city public works engineer who is coordinating the project.

Earlier this year, after amending the park’s master plan document, the City Council signed off on plans to put a prefabricated concrete restroom and shower south of the park tennis courts, at a cost of $225,000.

The facility was originally slated to include a storage area for shells used by the community rowing club, at the same time serving the needs of liveaboards and boaters visiting Eagle Harbor.

But the plans were scaled back to cut costs, and in April, the arts advocates convinced the council to undertake another round of design and public review.

Enter islander Les Eerkes and the Seattle firm Olson Sundberg Kundig Allen Architects, which sponsored a community design seminar for the restroom in May. The 70-person firm then brainstormed for an evening and came up with ideas as far-flung as a floating dock and a treehouse.

The final design proposal is somewhat more conservative, but is considerably less austere than previously approved.

“Knowing that the budget was really tight, it took the most surgical and simple design we could come up with,” Eerkes said.

That design: a low, two-building affair with rooflines sloping to a common point.

The smaller of the two structures – likely of prefabricated concrete – would include restroom and shower facilities for park patrons and boaters and related heating equipment. The second structure would be a covered area for picknicking and other activities.

“This isn’t just a covered place,” Eerke said. “It’s a covered place that has really great views out to the harbor and into the park.”

The back of the facility would include shell storage for rowers, while the face would open onto a plaza for gatherings and events. The design also suggested that the area to the east could be regraded into a grassy amphitheater.

The designs were presented to about two dozen people at City Hall last week, a group that included park users, liveaboards and arts interests.

Responses were mixed, but generally enthusiastic. But they also underscored the potential for conflict among the various user groups with a stake in the park layout.

At immediate issue was the architects’ proposal to put the restroom where the tennis courts now sit, instead of carving into the toe of a hillside farther south as originally approved.

The new location is unacceptable to nis courts have seen regular use during recent good weather.

“I feel very strongly that we need to keep activities for our youths,” he said.

But rowing club member David Ward said if the tennis court site was the best available, so be it.

“Tennis can be played in a lot of places,” Ward said. “It’s hard to launch a boat from Battle Point (Park).”

Eerkes said the site was chosen in part because it would formalize a view corridor from Bjune Drive to the water.

But there is also a question of whether the site would best serve boaters, or even fall within shoreline regulations.

Current regulations call for construction of facilities that serve boaters to be within 75 feet of the top of the boat ramp, Harbormaster Tami Allen said.

If the restroom goes elsewhere, portable toilets might still be needed close to the shoreline to meet that mandate.

The aesthetics of the building itself were also considered.

“The walls are screaming for public art, and there’s real potential there,” arts advocate Debbi Lester said.

Others offered more practical considerations in the design, such as airflow and light in the restrooms.

Eber praised the architects’ work, but said the project comes with new costs. For one thing, the new location would require more formal amendments to the park’s master plan and probably other permits, further stalling design and construction.

That was a concern for Kevin Dwyer, executive director of the Bainbridge Island Chamber of Commerce, who has lobbied on behalf of uncomfortable tourists.

It’s also unclear whether the new design would fit within the current $225,000 budget.

The issue goes to the City Council for consideration on June 22, by which time a cost estimate is expected.

But the extra round of public process means the park will almost certainly go without a restroom – unless you count the Honey Buckets – for the fourth consecutive summer season.

Any chance that will change?

“Unless a miracle happens,” Eber said, “no.”

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