Quite a nice load of money, a strong planning vision and plenty of construction know-how rolled into one project to show how a dying historic building in a small Washington town could turn from eyesore into community gem in a few months.
Consider it a typical case study of how to take something once proud and now downtrodden and revitalize it. Sure, you can’t look past the fact that the philanthropic (and local) Jansen Foundation pumped millions into the project, but with the money as an aside, it took a vision rooted in construction to turn a former City Hall building and an adjacent retail structure and turn them into the Jansen Art Center, full of history. And full of life.
With the former City Hall structure, built in 1918, sitting empty after city officials deemed it unworthy of employees, Lynden failed to sell the structure. In stepped the Jansen Foundation, offering to take it off their hands, purchase the adjacent building—built in the 1920s—and turn it all into 20,000 square feet and three stories of reclaimed wood, historic beams and original layouts set against the backdrop of regional art festivities, creation and showcases.
Crews from Exxel Pacific started by merging the two buildings into one. They now share an upstairs and a ground floor. The basements remain separated. In the first historic nod, crews ripped out the false front of the former City Hall structure, removing stairs up from the town’s main historic street, bringing back the open bays that once housed the fire department.
From there, original Douglas fir hardwood floors, original doors and original exposed beams merged with the latest in modern touches to create gallery space, practice rooms and performance venues worth of a big city.
For a little whimsy, building designers kept the old jail cells in tact in the basement (the building used to not only house the fire department, but also the police department) right next door to the old city safe, now a great storage closet.
From the small touches inside, artistic wooden counters in the main gallery space or stained concrete in the basement, to the needed upgrades such as new triple-pane windows in the concert hall and a new deck off the back to capture views of Mount Baker and the river valley below town, the Jansen Art Center turned one of the city’s biggest question marks into an answer everyone is proud of.
For small towns accustomed to old buildings getting run down and then staying that way, the life generated by a construction project proves the possibilities that lie in reclamation projects. With a nearby structure still ravaged by the effects of a fire years ago, the hope the Jansen Art Center created in the town spills forward into the possibility of the burnt-out shell just a couple of blocks down the street. Of course, as with these beautiful construction projects, money is the one factor standing in the way of a powerful reclamation project. But once that presents itself, construction has the ability to brighten an entire town.