Permit in hand, Ag Guild readies for Brickworks remodel

The Brickworks building, 120 Nichols Street, as it appeared just prior to its purchase by San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild, in 2010.  - Journal file photo
The Brickworks building, 120 Nichols Street, as it appeared just prior to its purchase by San Juan Islands Agricultural Guild, in 2010.
— image credit: Journal file photo

Build it, and they will come.

It’s perhaps a bit of a cliche, but that phrase fits the San Juan Island Agricultural Guild and its Brickworks project to a tee.

And the Agricultural Guild passed yet another milepost last week in its planned renovation of the Brickworks building, former home of Friday Harbor Brick and Tile Company and last remaining industrial building in downtown Friday Harbor, as it received a permit allowing for renovation and remodel of the historic building’s interior to proceed.

Ag Guild spokesman Stephen Robbins said the success of the events taking place on Brickworks outdoor plaza — Tuesday’s Music Night, Thursday’s Art Marker and the Farmers’ Market on Saturday — serve as tangible evidence of the vision of revitalization and community gathering spot that Brickworks has always intended to be.

“I think it’s jelling in people’s minds now,” Robbins said. “It’s not just the vision of one or two people any longer, people can actually see it at work.”

Dubbed “Brickworks” because of its ties to Friday Harbor Brick and Tile, which manufactured blocks used in the construction of various Friday Harbor buildings, including Town Hall, the interior of the historic building is expected to serve as the home of a year-round farmers’ market, a venue for events, and contain a certified commercial kitchen and storefront once its remodel and “enhancements” are complete. The Guild will need to raise about $300,000 to finance the remodel and another $140,000 to install the kitchen, storefront and several other add-ons, Robbins said.

“We hope to start as soon as possible,” he said of the remodel and renovation. “The timing of it is somewhat dependent on funding. Hopefully, it will be ready to go by next summer.”

Ag Guild Chairwoman Elaine Kendall said the group is poised to build on its earlier achievements with the building permit, approved last week by the town, in hand.

“We are now in position to execute the largest part of the project — the renovation of the historic building to provide a year-round indoor space to complement what has already been accomplished at the site,” Kendall said in a press release. “Hosting the Saturday morning Farmers Market, the Thursday evening Art Market, Tuesday Night Out Music, and several special events have already clearly demonstrated the appeal of this multi-faceted project and its community-enhancing contribution to the vibrancy of downtown Friday Harbor.”

In addition to financing the remodel through fundraising, Kendall said the Guild also hopes to retire the debt it incurred in purchasing the historic building. The building was purchased two years ago even though the Guild failed to win support of the San Juan County Council for a $400,000 sale of conservation easement to the Land Bank. The town council also back away from investing in Brickworks several months before the county council retreated from the project.

Delayed but not deterred, the Guild pressed ahead and bought the building wiht a $300,000 loan, a $375,000 state grant and a $100,000 federal USDA grant, as well as assorted donations.

With building plans approved and contractor resources committed, the Ag Guild is simultaneously launching a major capital campaign to not only complete the building renovation, but also to retire the remaining debt relating to the project’s overall funding.

“Initial contributions will allow us to proceed with the renovation as soon as they are received,” said the Ag Guild’s Susie Wampler. “Our next significant payment on the current debt is not due until November of 2013, though we aim to raise the funds we are seeking long before that.”


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