Edmonds travel-business entrepreneur Rick Steves. (Rick Steves’ Europe)

Rick Steves makes major fund pledge to Edmonds waterfront center

EDMONDS — A plan to build an $11 million waterfront community center here has gotten a big boost: A pledge of $2 million from local travel business entrepreneur Rick Steves.

And, if $1 million can be raised in the Edmonds community, Steves has pledged another million.

Announcement of the pledges from Steves was made Thursday by Farrell Fleming, executive director of the Edmonds Senior Center.

“It’s an extraordinarily generous gesture on his part,” Fleming said.

“There’s not many projects of this size anywhere that have this kind of single gift. Let’s face it, this is just huge,” he said.

The 26,000-square-foot Edmonds Waterfront Center is planned on the site of the current Edmonds Senior Center on Railroad Avenue.

But the idea is to offer multi-generational programs there.

Including the money promised by Steves, to date, there’s been $4.7 million in pledges, Fleming said. A request has been made to the state for a grant of $2.25 million. The project is currently ranked fifth out of 32 requests being considered by the state, he said.

The goal is to start construction on the building in the first quarter of 2018 and for it to open about a year later.

Fleming said the concept of a community gathering place was one of the things that has interested Steves in the project.

Steves disclosed his planned pledges during a meeting at his Edmonds home Wednesday evening. “He was very impassioned about the fact it will serve all ages,” Fleming said.

Steves’ business has been built on books and guided travels through Europe. “He’s familiar with gathering places there for the whole community,” Fleming said.

During construction, activities at the senior center will be temporarily relocated. Once it opens, the new building generally will have activities for older adults from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m., with parks and recreation and other community activities scheduled from 4 until 9 p.m.

A beach-restoration project funded by the City of Edmonds is planned as building construction is under way.

Creosote logs in a nearby old bulkhead will be removed, storm water will be treated and the addition of sand to the beach will absorb wave action, Fleming said.

The beach restoration is part of a project estimated to cost $1.5 million to provide greater shoreline access and restore and improve the beach habitat. The plan also calls for a rain garden so runoff from the center’s parking lot doesn’t flow directly into Puget Sound.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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