Your Welcome Plaza at Skansie Brothers Park

Posted on May 21, 2017 in before-n-after, community, Gig Harbor, local materials

Featured in the May 2017 Issue of Gig Harbor Living Local

By Brett Marlo DeSantis

If you are wondering about what is going on at Skansie Park, here is your chance for an intimate perspective before the plaza makes its debut at the end of this month.

Skansie Brothers Park, the hub of downtown to many, has been a failing lift station for many years. Way back when, it was decided that this location would be a good fit for wastewater collection. The infrastructure was mostly hidden underground, using a gravity-fed system, to move wastewater from this lower elevation to a higher one—the treatment plant.

Did you know that while you are enjoying a concert in the park or shopping at the downtown farmer’s market, below you, this lift station receives approximately one third of our city’s wastewater? The new Welcome Plaza replaces Lift Station #4 with a new Lift Station#4B, increasing the facility’s capacity. The orientation of the site is such that you may be viewing it when driving down Rosedale, walking north or south on Harborview’s sidewalk, sitting at the bus stop or docking on the water. You may be traveling by boat, car, bike, wheelchair or by foot.

Any way you arrive, you will have choices of how to access and interact with the plaza and structure. Redesigning and upgrading a lift station is no small feat; additionally in and on an extremely sensitive site. The waterfront alone brings a set of challenges.

The existing bathrooms had been flooding due to rising water levels of high tides. How can we raise the new structure three feet to meet current flood level requirements and still keep the physical connection to Jerisich Dock and allow for ADA accessibility? How do we address the historical context of the nearby structures, the Skansie Netshed and Skansie House? Is it possible to create a municipal structure that does not look governmental? How can we politely compliment the existing built environment without falsely imitating the beauty of history that resides next to it? Could we condense the building program to the smallest footprint possible to meet its function AND our growing needs as a community; solidifying our relationship and sense of place with the park itself? 

Here are the basic needs for the Lift Station to work properly: a wastewater receiving well, aka wet-well; a filtration system to remove bulky materials; pumps and piping; a control room with access to mechanical, electrical with a clear sight line and proximity to the wet-well itself; and an odor and ventilation system.

Keeping all those challenges and program requirements in mind, the Welcome Plaza was born. The building program contains exterior access to recycling/garbage bins, drive-up access to the control room (mechanical + electrical), a covered breezeway with access to women’s and men’s restrooms, two separate restrooms with showers, a plumbing chase, a storage room, an ADA platform lift with an ample viewing deck and seating.

The main feature of the site is the Fisherman’s Memorial, which will stand on a new pedestal and be adorned with proper lighting and an amazing water feature. The water will rise from the ground surrounding the net to symbolize the catch of jumping fish.

We all realize that change occurs. It is our responsibility as a community to design with accessibility and amenities for all. In our city park next to the harbor teeming with masts rising from the many boats docked and anchored there, the new structure will welcome residents and visitors to engage with a higher perspective of our city center; connecting our past through reclaimed materials and designing for present and future needs. Let’s embrace changes to our built environment that positively frame the views of our harbor and help create community.

Take your kids or grand kids to play with the water feature, enjoy concert tunes on the deck or dock, and have fun supporting our local farmer’s market at your Welcome Plaza!