Monday, August 9, 2021

Port Townsend Marine Science Center purchases historic Flagship Landing building

On August 5, we celebrated our purchase of the Flagship Landing building on downtown Port Townsend's Water Street. 
(photo by Jen Lee Light Photography)

We are so excited to announce that the Port Townsend Marine Science Center has purchased the Flagship Landing building at 1001 Water Street. 

In my 10+ years working to advance our mission, first as the Administrative Coordinator and now as the Marketing and Development Coordinator, I’ve associated the Port Townsend Marine Science Center to a very specific location: Fort Worden State Park. From the dock that stretches out over the calm shores and cradles our aquarium, to the historic building that houses the legendary skeleton of Hope the orca, to even the high-ceiling office where my desk resides for me to perform my tasks, my work has been tied to a fixed location for over a decade. But in recent months, my construct of a fixed location has been challenged by COVID-19, a force that has little respect for geography. Since March of 2020 I have worked from home. At first I did this begrudgingly. But now, after a year and a half, I’ve come to a new understanding: for PTMSC to advance our place-based mission of “inspiring conservation of the Salish Sea”, we may not necessarily have to stick to just one location. 

We are excited and proud to announce our purchase of the Flagship Landing building on Water Street, Port Townsend’s historic downtown thoroughfare. Our plan is to make this a platform for our vision to foster the growth of generations of environmental stewards living in balance with marine ecosystems. Our Executive Director explains, “Not only does Flagship Landing give us the flexibility to move in over time, but most importantly, by bringing new life to this historic 132-year-old building, we dramatically reduce the carbon footprint of the project. The purchase of this building provides us with an exceptional opportunity to showcase best practices in shoreline redevelopment for a healthier marine environment. And working with Port Townsend’s city manager, John Mauro, we intend to be a demonstration project of seismic and sea level rise adaptation for our town.”

PTMSC staffers Mandi Johnson (left) and Marley Loomis display a piece of
whale baleen in front of PTMSC's newly aquired Flagship Landing building. 
(photo by Jen Lee Light Photography)

Even as the scope of our mission has expanded, the pier on which our aquarium sits was assessed by Washington State Parks to be near the end of its useful life. We participated in State Park’s planning efforts and, when it became clear a smaller pedestrian pier was best for the marine environment, our Board of Directors began the search for a new home. Our long-term goal is to create an aquarium at our new Flagship Landing building; in the meantime, we’ll continue to operate at the existing Fort Worden aquarium and museum as long as possible during the transition phase.

And then there is the issue of reaching more people. When the news of this change was shared with Anne Murphy, founding Executive Director, she responded that “this is a time for bold and radical action. The time to make a radical change is now.” She wholeheartedly endorsed the plan.

Throughout this process, I have thought about how difficult it would be to give up our location on the Fort Worden dock‒this has been an iconic spot for our organization and a focal point for our visitors, volunteers and staff. But I weigh this feeling of attachment against the ever growing need for our mission “to inspire conservation of the Salish Sea”‒ if we truly wish to fulfill this mission, we must inspire via leading by example. Letting go of an old dock in the interest of marine conservation is ultimately a better fit with our values, and retrofitting a historic building is entirely more environmentally sound than building a new facility from scratch.

Led by Executive Director Janine Boire (right), PTMSC's staff and board members carry items across Port Townsend's Water Street signifying the organization's transition to a new headquarters downtown. (photo by Jen Lee Light Photography) 

Besides, the Port Townsend Marine Science Center is so much more than an aquarium. While we transition in phases to our new location over the next several years, we offer and will continue to to offer programs like our popular summer camps, marine mammal stranding assistance, The Future of the Oceans lecture series, quality marine education programs for schools, Protection Island wildlife cruises (in partnership with Puget Sound Express), and so much more.

Even after we have fully phased into the Flagship Landing building, we will retain our museum building at Fort Worden as an environmental learning center. 

Our partnership with Fort Worden remains strong, and we look forward to strengthening the connection between downtown and Fort Worden by deepening our collaborations with other nonprofits that operate (or wish to operate) in both locations, such as Northwind Arts, Jefferson County Historical Society, and the Northwest Maritime Center. 

We look forward to this exciting new phase of inspiring conservation.
Become a member and be a part of this thrilling new chapter in our 40+ year story!

Brian Kay
Brian Kay (he / him)

PTMSC Marketing & Development Coordinator

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