By Zach Hagadone
The city of Sandpoint hosted a public meet-and-greet April 12 of the three teams selected to advance into Stage 2 of its downtown waterfront design competition, featuring presentations from three of eight groups who answered the contest solicitation, issued Feb. 21.
“Literally people from all over the world … wanted to be a part of this competition,” said City Council President Kate McAlister, in her introductory remarks. “We are really excited. We can’t wait.”
The three teams selected for Stage 2 included First Forty Feet, with Greenworks, Fehr & Peers, Century West Engineering and North Root Architecture; GGLO + Bernardo Wills, with Welch Comer, Greg Moller, Erin Blue and Sarah Thompson Moore; and Skylab, with PLACE, KPFF, PAE & LUMA, Brightworks and ECONorthwest.
McAlister noted that all three teams include either locally based firms and individuals, or companies that currently or have previously worked on design and development in the Sandpoint area.
“[It] really makes it have a local flavor for us,” she said.
City Hall contracted with Portland-based architect and master planner Don Stastny to manage the competition, who was on hand in person to preside over the presentations April 12 and speak with members of the public.
He framed the contest — one of more than 70 he’s managed around the globe — as an effort to “see the potential of how this community could physically develop to support the culture, arts and community that is here.”
“What we bring to this is an understanding of how you build cities, how you build communities, how you build processes that are transparent,” he said, including public participation and observation.
Of the eight firms that answered the initial submittal solicitation, “there wasn’t a loser among the bunch,” Stastny said, adding, “it was finding the best of the best.”
First up was William Grimm, principal with Portland, Ore.-based First Forty Feet — whose name keys into the notion that “the most important space of any city, of any town, is the first 40 feet up from a building and first 40 feet out in space into the street,” Grimm said.
He emphasized that First Forty Feet is centered on “people and public life,” noting that the team includes historians, anthropologists, landscape architects and other designers, including a special interest in transportation.
Members of the team include GreenWorks — which has done streetscape design work for the city in the past — as well as Spokane-based Century West Engineering (whose Sandpoint office is led by Ryan Luttmann); Fehr & Peers, which is currently working with the city on the “East-West Connection” concept for U.S. Highway 2; and North Root Architecture, led by local Sandpoint architect Reid Weber.
The firm has worked on projects focused on connecting communities to their waterfront in Lewiston; Sedona, Alaska; Vancouver, Wash.; and Lake Stevens, Wash., among others.
With the tagline “enlist the people,” Grimm said, “We look forward to enlisting you in this project.”
GGLO + Bernardo Wills, the latter which contracted with the city on the Parks and Rec. Master Plan, leads the second team in Stage 2. The Seattle-based landscape architect firm GGLO, represented by Principal Mark Sindell, framed its presentation as representing the “realm of where cities and nature meet, which we think can be accomplished poetically, rather than as a collision, as often happens.”
If selected, its Boise office would be working closely on the Sandpoint waterfront project.
“We see each project as an opportunity to transform an environment in ways that enhance its beauty and support the well-being of people and the planet,” Sindell said, later adding with respect to nature, “let’s respect it, let’s protect it and let’s restore it.”
The company has worked in various capacities on projects in Caldwell, Idaho; Coeur d’Alene; Spokane; and other locations, specifically geared toward reclaiming waterfronts from past industrial uses and reconnecting communities to — at least in the case of Sandpoint — what Sindell described as their “lakefront living room.”
Finally, Portland-based Skylab Architecture Principal Jeff Kovel presented his firm’s philosophy — supported by an interdisciplinary team of product designers, landscape architects and construction experts — as “ultimately, we’re futurists,” seeking solutions for tomorrow.
“We reveal the unseen for those willing to seek it,” he said, explaining that process as finding hidden attributes in a place identifying opportunities to reveal them through “an act of design.”
In Sandpoint, Kovel said, a “knotted ball of yarn has been created over time here.” His firm’s task would be to “untangle” it.
Past experience for Kovel includes working on redevelopment at Schweitzer Mountain over the past eight years, while Skylab has been involved in projects including the Hood River, Ore. waterfront master plan; a waterfront redevelopment in Bellingham, Wash.; and the Zidell Yards, Luuwit View Park and Columbia Wastewater Treatment Plant in Portland, Ore.
Skylab Brand Designer Reiko Igarashi said that the goal of untangling the “knitted ball of yarn” in Sandpoint is intended to “make beautiful things out of that”; and, in particular, easing a tension between infrastructure and access.
“History can be in tension with the present and cloud what we see now and what we might see in the future,” she said.
Teams broke out into discussion with members of the public following the April 12 presentation, and Thursday, April 13, would spend the day touring the downtown waterfront site between Bridge Street and the Panida Theater, getting to know one another and the community.
Next steps in the design competition include a mid-course review in about three weeks with members of the technical advisory group — which includes city staff members — then design concepts due at the end of May. A series of evaluations will follow, which will include public exhibits and presentations.
“There’s multiple times when you all will be invited to look at this thing,” Stastny said, stating earlier in the presentation, “I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to do so far.”
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