More than 100 friends, well-wishers supporters, officials (elected and otherwise), volunteers and kids of all ages gathered Tuesday morning to say goodbye to the old Edmonds Senior Center and hello to the new Edmonds Community Waterfront Center. In the spirit of the all-inclusive mission of the Waterfront Center, the groundbreaking activity was open to all, with everyone offered the chance to wield a golden shovel and make the dirt fly.
“The new Waterfront Center is a game changer,” said emcee Carolyn Douglas, as she welcomed attendees. “We’re replacing our senior center not with another senior center, but with a multi-generational facility that will bridge the divide between young and old, connect the wisdom and perspective of our seniors with the energy and enthusiasm of our kids, and spice it up with a healthy dose of talents and passions from the rest of us ‘in betweeners.’ This new center is going to be incredible.”
Senior Center Executive Director Farrell Fleming then took the podium, reminding the audience that this is all taking place on the traditional homeland of a people who “understood, valued and respected their elders really well” — the Coast Salish.
“This old building has been a place of celebrations, marriages, lives, birthdays,” he continued. “It began in 1955 as a boat storage facility. It’s lived a great life. Now it is time to move on and build new traditions and memories in a facility that will serve our community for generations.”
Next up was Senior Center Board president Bob Rinehart, who expressed his deep gratitude to all who helped make this day happen.
“This started many years ago with a vision and a purpose that has grown with time,” he began. “As dreams became plans and plans became reality, I watched it come together. I feel a deep sense of responsibility to folks like the Environmental Works architects, and Jim Bray and his colleagues at W.G. Clark construction. I know they’ll build it well and build it on time. You think those drawings look wonderful? Just wait till you walk in the building. I guarantee you’ll be overwhelmed.”
Rinehart passed the mic to Mayor Dave Earling, who summed up the morning a moment when vision and history come together.
“It started with a vision to create, to anticipate need, to think ahead,” he said. “It is so gratifying to now see this vision becoming reality. The old structure is an important piece of our history; the new one is also a piece of history, but it’s a piece we get to write.”
The final speaker was former Edmonds mayor Gary Haakenson, who headed up fundraising for the Waterfront Center and along the way became the unofficial cheerleader of the effort.
“We don’t often get the chance to participate in a groundbreaking in Edmonds,” he began. “Being here today takes me back to another century, to the groundbreaking for the Public Safety Complex, and later the Edmonds Center for the Arts and Fire Station 16 on 196th Street.
“But this one is different,” he continued. “While those were publicly-funded, this one is being paid for by the community, by contributions from the people who live here, believe in the vision and will use the new facility. To date the community has come together and raised an incredible $13 million to get this project done. That’s a lot of money, folks!”
Haakenson went on to thank the biggest donors, those who have given either personally or through their foundations more than $100,000. He then called out their names, asked them to come forward and be recognized.
“Without these folks you see before you, we wouldn’t be here today,” he said. “Early on many said we’d never do this. We’d never knock the old building down, we’d never build the new one. Well, here we are, thanks to you. And I’m really looking forward to standing before you a year from now as we open and dedicate the new Waterfront Center.”
Haakenson then invited the donors, the board, elected officials, volunteers and anyone else who felt so moved to grab a shovel and make some dirt fly, officially marking the start of construction of the new Edmonds Community Waterfront Center.
— Story and photos by Larry Vogel