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Marquee due for new look

The 30-year-old marquee which frames Port Orchard’s business district will soon get a facelift.

After decades of discussion, the city decided professionals were needed to handle the controversial task. The city has signed a $12,400 contract with Bremerton-based Rice Fergus Architects to generate some ideas as to what the updated marquee should look like.

The decision came after the city noticed that some elements of the marquee would need to be replaced, and decided to take care of the whole thing at once, rather than in little bits.

“If you’re going to address the marquee, this is the best way to do it,” said city engineer Larry Curles.

The difficulty with the marquee lies in its prominence downtown, Curles said. He said everyone in the community has an opinion of what should be done with it — everything from leaving it untouched to tearing it down completely. Rice Fergus’ job will be to offer conceptual ideas on how to improve the appearance of the marquee without treading on too many toes.

“Even in my own household, there are three different views of what the marquee should be,” said city councilman Warren Van Zee.

Steve Rice, the partner in charge of the project, said Rice Fergus will strive to strike the right balance between being receptive to community input and maintaining efficiency in the process.

“It’s a challenge,” Rice said. “It’s become a fixture in Port Orchard. I think there’s going to be some public involvement (in the design process), but we don’t know how much. Any discussion of change to (the marquee) is going to be a sensitive issue.”

At the last city council meeting, council members expressed considerable anxiety the project would get bogged down in opinion polls, running up Rice Fergus’ bill and slowing progress to a crawl.

Because the architects will be paid by the hour, the city will be the one funding any public meetings or community brainstorming sessions Rice Fergus attends.

“You should work to tightly control the process,” Curles told the council. “It’s not going to be a wide-open discussion because we’ll never get resolution out of that.”

However, some council members felt it was essential to get as much public input as possible so the new design would truly represent the character of the city. Council member Carolyn Powers was concerned that by limiting meetings to those with civic groups, as was suggested, the city was disregarding a large slice of the community.

“If they’re talking to specific clubs, that may not be broad enough to include the average citizen of Port Orchard,” she said.

Phil McCormick, president of the Downtown Merchant’s Association, said he like the idea of sprucing up the marquee. He hopes the new design will help bring some light in underneath it. McCormick compared walking under the marquee to walking through a dark tunnel.

“The marquee needs to be updated — everyone knows it,” he said. “It’ll be interesting to see what they come up with. There’s a whole bunch of things that can be done to improve the aesthetics.”

Rice said he plans to start work on the conceptual planning next month. He also said he expects the process to move pretty quickly one it’s been initiated. Rice estimates it will takes two to three months before the firm has drawings to show to the city council.

Curles emphasized that this is only the beginning of the project. The city has only budgeted enough money for design ideas — not an actual engineering plan. Curles said the council will budget funds for the plans and construction later on, but warned that the city may not have that kind of money for some time.

“This is really the first step in a very lengthy process,” he said.

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