By Bill Fenimore
The planning for renovation of the Blue Building is moving into high gear, with the expectation that the work will begin in the latter half of this summer. Our intention is to focus our efforts on the most important pieces of this project – safety and accessibility. Once we start, the contractor will be on site for approximately 14 weeks and the Phinney Center will remain open. At the end of this process the temporary partitions will come down to reveal a new elevator to provide access for all.
In addition to an elevator, we will have a new outdoor plaza on the ground level and a new staircase, creating an entry path that is wider and more welcoming. On the main floor we have already revealed the glass partition walls that had been previously covered and that will help define the foyer and elevator lobby.
On the third floor, we will be creating a closet for new rolling art walls. Until recently the gallery walls hung from temporary beams that have been functional but not beautiful. For the first time in many years, we can see the arches that define the space without the extra beams intruding. We are also planning significant seismic improvements to the building.
I am also happy to report that the spirit of the Living Building Challenge continues to inform our decisions. We are not in a position to seek certification but are looking at each decision we make through that lens. We plan to provide a new heating system for the common areas and we are considering replacing our aging natural gas furnace with a heat pump that will burn no fossil fuel as it provides heat.
Another example, just completed, is the replacement of the carpet in Room 6. We found a PVC-free carpet, Shaw Ecoworx tile, which the Re-store had salvaged. Shaw’s local rep, Laurie Staley, generously provided Shaw’s latest innovation, Lok dots, which take the place of gallons of adhesive. Shaw has been a leader in the field of sustainability and the chance to work with them was very satisfying. We also partnered with the Northwest Ecobuilding Guild who provided expert craftsmen to help do the work. Have a look the next time you are at the Phinney Center.