Vancouver awards contract for West Barracks work

$6.4 million deal to cover renovation of 4 buildings

By Amy Fischer, Columbian City Government Reporter

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A $6.4 million construction contract for the renovation of four wooden buildings in the West Barracks at Fort Vancouver National Site was awarded this week, putting the high-profile project back on track after problems with the bid process temporarily derailed it.

The city of Vancouver sold “mini bonds” in May to Clark County residents to help pay for redeveloping the former Artillery Barracks, Infantry Barracks, Quartermaster Storehouse and Dental Surgeon’s Building into apartments and space for offices, retail and hospitality, which is expected to cost a total of $8.3 million.

After putting the project out for bid three times, the Vancouver City Council awarded the contract Monday to low bidder Pease Construction of Lakewood. The engineer’s estimate was $6.3 million. Construction is expected to wrap up one year from the date the project is awarded.

In June, no one responded to the city’s request for proposals. In August, the city relaxed some of the job requirements to attract more bids, but clerical errors in the bid documents prompted contractors to overestimate the job’s cost by millions of dollars. In December, the city advertised the job a third time and received bids from Pease Construction, Skyward Construction of Ridgefield, Integrity Structures of Vancouver and Pacific Tech Construction of Kelso.

The request for proposals included a requirement that 5 percent of the work be performed by apprentices. Pease Construction expects to use carpenter apprentices through the PNW Regional Council of Carpenters for 4 percent of the job and laborer apprentices through Northwest Laborers for 1 percent of the work, according to city documents.

In addition to mini bonds, the “adaptive reuse” renovation project is funded by a state capital projects appropriation and a state Historical Society grant.

The West Barracks are among city-owned properties in the Vancouver National Historic Reserve and are managed for the city by the Fort Vancouver National Trust. The Army moved out of the Artillery Barracks in 1999, but the other three buildings to be renovated have been vacant for decades. Roughly 100 years old, the buildings are empty shells — the Army gutted most of them down to the studs. However, a few character-defining features remain that the city will preserve, such as wood floors, wainscotting, pressed tin ceilings and the original space layouts.

Once the four buildings are renovated, the only building in the West Barracks that won’t have been renovated yet will be the Post Hospital building.

Even though the Infantry Barracks’ apartments — six studios and six one-bedrooms — won’t be finished for a year, about 40 people are on a waiting list to lease them, said Jan Bader, the city’s program and policy development manager.