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Bainbridge Island City Council approves Waterfront Park design contract

Although there was pushback from two council members last week, the Bainbridge Island City Council unanimously approved a contract Wednesday for the makeover design of Waterfront Park and the city dock.

The contract followed City Manager Doug Schulze’s recommendation last week to hire design firm Studio Cascade.

Through the contract, the firm will design three conceptual designs based on a construction budget of the $1.8 million Washington ferries settlement. The company will also provide design options if the city obtains additional grant funding.

At last week’s session, Councilwoman Debbi Lester and Mayor Steve Bonkowski attempted to hit the reset button on the search for a design consultant — despite having long known Schulze would select a firm based on the “request for qualifications” process that had come to a close.

The two argued the community would better benefit from selecting potential designs rather than selecting qualified design firms.

Studio Cascade is one of eight qualified applicants that responded to the city’s RFQ.

Schulze — who partnered with Interim Public Works Director John Cunningham, the project manager, and a local architect representing Sustainable Bainbridge to select the top choice — picked Studio Cascade for several reasons.

The design team comes with civil and marina engineers, landscape architects and sustainable design specialists of which the majority have more than 20  years of experience in the field.

Last week, Schulze also pointed out the team included one person who has 35 years of experience with grant writing at the state agency that awards grant funds for park and recreational projects, and the person has a 20-year history with the review board for the office.

The firm has completed designs for multiple waterfront projects, including its most recent in Port Angeles which has received several urban design awards.

Most important to the council’s concerns was the firm’s commitment to community feedback.

Included in a schedule provided by the firm is an event called “Storefront Studio.”

The firm states that key to its proposed approach is this four-day event where the community is invited to contribute directly to the design team.

The firm will work with the city to obtain a location near Waterfront Park where the firm can hold community events designed specifically to incorporate community feedback.

For the first event, the firm will produce three thematic designs in advance.

Each design will explore setting the park as an environmental and sustainability showcase, an iconic performance venue, a secluded space or a park dedicated to fitness and activity. The designs will also examine the city dock expansion proposed by the Harbor Commission.

On the first day of the Storefront Studio, the team will invite the community to the studio and help evaluate each design. In the evening, the team will refine their proposals.

On the second day, the team will perform an audit of the current park with community feedback in mind. Then they will host an evening presentation of their progress.

In the following days, local architects, landscape architects, artists and others are also encouraged to meet with the design team and offer input.

The studio will be open to the public during the day and evening for the four days.

At last week’s council meeting, Lester attempted to persuade the council to vote against the city manager’s recommendation and instead conduct a new search based on an alternative process.

She instead hoped the council would approve a process that selected the three most qualified consultants and ask each of the three to develop two conceptual plans. Lester said the design voted as the most popular by the community could then be selected.

Lester contended her approach would allow more community input to make sure certain qualities of Bainbridge Island were represented in the design plan, including the arts.

Bonkowski agreed, and said the scheme would give the city and the community an idea of what they were purchasing for its consultant dollars.

Alongside Studio Cascade, the city received responses from the firms of Fisher-Bouma Partnership, Cascade Design Collaborative, Inc., J.A. Brennan Associates, MacLeod Reckord, Makers, The Portico Group and Susan Black & Associates.

Portico Group’s list of successful projects includes Kirkland’s marina park renovation, the Pearl Harbor Visitor Center in Hawaii and the Washington Park Arboretum master plan. Several of their projects were awarded “green development” status. It was also stated in their application that several Portico Group employees are Bainbridge residents.

The Fisher-Bouma Partnership developed the original Winslow Waterfront Park master plan as well as other projects on the island, including IslandWood and Pleasant Beach Village.

The J.A. Brennan design team includes landscape architects and dock, coastal and civil engineers. Their project experience ranges from the Juneau, Alaska seawalk and the Langley, Wash. small boat harbor to the Rockaway Beach Road shoreline stabilization on Bainbridge Island.

Just before voting on a contract with Studio Cascade Wednesday, Lester recommended materials to be added to the contract.

Of these materials was an arts master plan to be incorporated in the policy assessment, an environmental impact statement and Suquamish-approved shoreline restoration designs.

The council voted unanimously to approve a contract of $190,000 for Studio Cascade to produce the conceptual designs for the Waterfront Park and city dock renovation project.

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