The Port of Anacortes’ Transit Shed Event Center could continue to be used for community events until the end of 2023 under a possible option that port commissioners hope to officially review later this month.
A 2 1/2-year grace period would move the port in the direction of returning the Transit Center to its purpose of industrial use while giving community groups time to start looking for different options or start raising funds to build something new.
“We don’t want to pull the rug out from under the community,” Port Commission President Jon Petrich said.
The commission asked the port staff to draft an official resolution for review at the June 17 meeting.
Several commissioners talked about their desire to give people a longer transition time than what they were originally considering, which was eliminating public use of the Transit Shed now or within a year.
A grace period makes sense for both the Port and the community groups using the space, Commissioner Ken Goodwin said.
The port received many public comments over multiple meetings about the Transit Shed’s future. Some people representing nonprofits urged the board not to cut off the Transit Shed completely. A few more people added their voices June 3.
Laura Spehar wrote to the commission, asking them to consider the unique setting that the Transit Shed offers. Not only does it lend itself well to events, it also allows people to see the working waterfront up close, she wrote. That combination of something like a gala with the backdrop of a boat under construction is not offered anywhere else.
Brenda Ramsdell, with the Anacortes Youth Sports Coalition, said the Transit Shed is the only resource of its kind available in Anacortes.
“I hope it stays the same,” she said.
However, the port commissioners have contemplated for years ways to return the shed to its original use, Commissioner Bonnie Bowers said. It’s a place people love to use for events, but it can also be used to further the port’s mission of providing space for business growth and more family-wage jobs, she said.
A 2017 economic analysis commissioned by the port found that returning the Transit Shed to marine use could mean roughly 30 jobs and provide $3 million in revenue.
The port had previously been looking at the idea of opening an events center near the marina. That plan didn’t work out, but another could, Petrich said. Now’s the time to get the ball rolling on that, he said.
Finding a new place to hold events in town is the best option because it keeps all the economic benefits of those events within the city, Petrich said.
“There’s good economic activity that happens here,” he said. “We don’t want that to leave town.”
Since the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all events in the Transit Shed in March 2020, the shed has been in use for marine purposes every day — mostly for storing goods, port Executive Director Dan Worra said.
“There is a need out there,” he said.
As of now, events are still not allowed at any port facilities, Worra said. When guidance from the governor changes, events will happen again, especially out at Seafarers Memorial Park, he said.
The plan now is to hold the summer concert series when it is possible to do so.