After seven years of planning, five years of fundraising, nearly two years of construction, and a summer of over 40 events in “soft launch” mode, Town Hall Seattle has completed construction and has reopened its doors to the public. King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan presided over the official opening ceremony on August 28. Town Hall’s grand reopening festival (Homecoming) begins September 2 with the fifth Town Hall appearance by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, in conversation with US Representative Pramila Jayapal (WA-7).
A Beloved Community Resource Transformed Visitors to the renovated Town Hall will find familiarity in the historic character of the city, state and federal landmark building alongside distinctive contemporary touches, expanded performance capabilities, modern patron comforts, and structural necessities such as: a top- to-bottom seismic retrofit; an HVAC system and building-wide climate control to unlock year- round programming; 17 “All Gender” restrooms on the lobby level; enhanced audio capabilities in the Great Hall including a custom-designed acoustic reflector; a transformed downstairs performance space (now The Forum); a new intimate gathering space on the lobby level (The Reading Room); and major ADA upgrades such as automated lifts, Hearing Loop systems in all performance spaces, a new elevator, and much more. Preservation specialists BuildingWork have been the architect for the renovation, in association with Weinstein A|U; The Rafn Company has served as General Contractor. Principal subcontractors included Jaffe Holden, a nationally-renowned acoustic consultant to performance halls (local credits include McCaw Hall and Benaroya Hall); and structural engineers Magnusson Klemencic, responsible for the complex, unique, and nearly invisible seismic retrofit of the 100 year old landmark.
“Unforeseen Conditions” Create Fundraising Challenges
The top-to-bottom renovation began in August 2017. After two separate rounds of pre-construction testing and analysis, and significant contingencies, Town Hall broke ground with a project cautiously budgeted at $28.2 million and highly seasoned project management and construction teams. Even so, multiple and unusually late-breaking unforeseen conditions extended construction by seven months to May 2019, and finishing work extending into August 2019. Together these challenges triggered late cost increases of 26% ($7.3 million), bringing the total project cost to $35.5 million.
As a small organization—Town Hall itself began the project with an operating budget of less than $2 million—Executive Director Wier Harman recently commented on the extraordinary strain of the increased budget: “We responded [to the cost increases] by raising $14 million in the last two years—$8 million in the last eight months alone. The journey has been so long that it’s easy to lose perspective, but this is a truly extraordinary achievement. It’s the combined work of a generous, supportive board and a talented, tireless and resilient staff. It is something of a paradox—this project is at once a gift from every one of us to this community, and a loud declaration of ownership from the community at large. Town Hall truly belongs to all of us now.”
Extraordinary Community Support
The campaign was funded through a broad base of individuals, corporate and family foundations, and public grants. In total, Town Hall Seattle raised $33.6 million, and closed the remaining gap with a long-term loan from Beneficial State Bank, a mission-based financial institutional specializing in community development and social impact.
A staggering 2,000+ individuals supported the campaign, including 20 first-time donors making gifts of $100,000 or more. Ten local families and foundations who made name-qualifying gifts are recognized throughout the building:
Level 1 Named Spaces
- Wyncote Foundation NW Forum
- The Otto (Town Hall’s new bar, named in honor of Otto Haas on behalf of Wyncote Foundation NW; “The Otto”)
- True/Brown Foundation Lobby
- C Keith Birkenfeld Memorial Trust Library
- Rick Steves Media Resource Room
- Ferguson Foundation Staff Office
Level 2 Named Spaces
- Ishaque and Maria Mehdi Reading Room
- Nordhoff Family Lounge
- James W Ray Gallery
- Floyd and Delores Jones Lobby
Level 3 Named Spaces
- Mina B. Person Green Room
- The Wier Harman Lectern (To honor Executive Director Wier Harman’s incredible dedication to the organization and campaign, board and staff opted to name the Great Hall lectern in his honor.)