January 8, 2016
Fort Worden’s busy future: pub, dinner theater, culinary school, destination resort
Fort Worden, a former Army base at the entrance to Puget Sound, has not been sold or privatized. But about one-quarter of the park — 90 acres incorporating more than 70 buildings surrounding the original parade grounds — has been leased to a public corporation.
For Port Townsend, it is a bold and risky effort to maintain a park that is an essential driver to its small-town economy. But the enterprise is also being closely watched from Seattle and beyond, where communities are groping for ways to rescue parks that have suffered from repeated budget cuts. Eastsiders in particular are exploring alternatives for the former seminary at St. Edwards State Park.
The [public development authority] PDA is a public agency but can operate like a private business much like the Pike Place Market board and other Seattle agencies. Using a mix of public and private funds, it manages the park much like a destination resort or a college campus.
The public authority is “a vehicle for freeing up or enabling assets to become self-supporting while retaining them in the public sector,” explains Gerry Johnson, a Seattle attorney who specializes in helping set them up.