Sunday, November 18, 2012

Just Wondering

It is always my intention to learn so I read whatever is handy.  So I was in a business office this past week and there was the Puget Sound Business Journal (which I don't regularly read).   So I'm reading this article about how the EMP wants a break on its rent.  (Apparently Paul Allen might not subsidize it forever.) 

EMP agreed with the City that there would be rent increases every five years from the time it opened in 2000.  But now EMP is saying they are a non-profit (albeit fronted by one of the wealthiest men in the world) and they say they do lots of "cultural education" to local schoolchildren.

 It is also mentioned in the artilce that EMP has an exclusive liquor license that means no new potential restaurants or bars at Seattle Center can serve liquor.  (Talk about a benefit.)  So the City did offer them a rent break in exchange for giving up that exclusivity but EMP said no.   (To which I would say, then sink or swim on your own.) 

But in terms of our district, here was the interesting part:

EMP pays about $6.46 a square foot for space.  The Seattle Children's Museum pays about $5.85 a foot.  Chilhuly Garden and Glass pays about $3.41 a foot (what a deal!).  Seattle Schools (and I assume this is for the space for Center School)?  $6.09 a square foot.

How is it that a government entity, a school,  pays more than non-profit entities especially new ones like the Chilhuly Garden and Glass Museum?  I have no idea.

Then, I read an article in Crosscut about the redo of Seattle Center and see this:

A new $1 million children’s art playground is in the works (part of the Chihuly deal).

So maybe in exchange for low rent, the Chihuly Museum gave over some space for this children' playground?

There was also this:

By the end of the year, Nellams hopes to have the legal framework in place for the redevelopment of Memorial Stadium — which includes the creation of an adjacent public green space and parking lot — something that’s been on the to-do list for 50 years.  

(Robert Nellams is the head of Seattle Center.) 

On the one hand, Seattle Center did (does) need to be revitalized.  But I have to wonder - with all that is on the district's plate in terms of capital issues, where do they find the time to work out details for Memorial Stadium and the land swap?  I think it important but with the staggering capacity management issues, I'm surprised they have the time down at JSCEE.

 (The district owns 9 acres of Seattle Center including Memorial Stadium and its parking lot.  The last I heard, the district and the City were to do a land swap of 4-5 acres including the parking lot for a City parking lot over on Mercer which the district could then develop itself.   Memorial Stadium would continue to be owned and operated by the district.  It has to be because it is well-used by the district and was owned by the district for many years previous to Seattle Center even being created.) 

Keeping track of the capital and facilities issues in our district is a dizzying proposition.

21 comments:

Wondering Too said...

Melissa,

Did you get copies of the leases?

I am wondering too.

I am wondering who was responsible for the tenant improvements? Maybe some of the "nonprofits" paid for the buildouts?

What are the lengths of the leases? Are some long and other short term?

How about insurance issues? Maintenance? Utilities?

Are any of the leases triple net? Are all of the leases triple net?

What about revisionary interests? Are there any?

Melissa, really, I wonder why you think you can analyze the merits of several commercial leases from an article you read in waiting room.

You write these pieces with minimal attribution you never get a quote from an opposing side.

People will read what you write and think that the District is getting hoodwinked, or worse.

But really, from the limited information you have, you would have no clue.

I am wondering, could you wait to write your pieces until AFTER you have some answers?

Stop the Musing said...

I am not wondering too much anymore.

With the glass exhibit lease, Center Art LLC,will develop, construct and operate an exhibition hall and art garden in the former Fun Forest site. They will pay for the project.

In addition, they will donate $1 million for the development of a children's play area north of the monorail.

While the base rent would be $350,000 a year, the Center would also get a cut of the glass exhibit's net sales after the fifth year.

In addition to the build out, the tenant will be responsible for enhancing 39,000 square feet of public walkways and landscaping around the exhibition site and a community partnership program with a focus on arts and education.
You write your pieces in a way that make the district look absolutely foolish. You stir up conflict over problems that don’t exist.

Maybe you should wait to “publish” your stories until after you have your facts lined up.

A real journalist would not run with a story until they have at least spoken with all the interested parties.

I know you have a blog and you are free to write what you want when you want but you are affecting the lives of many people. You should be aware that you have a responsibility and you should hold yourself to higher ethical and professional standards than most bloggers.

Please, can you stop with the “wonderings” and the musings.

It is causing harm.

Patrick said...

Hm. Maybe instead of swapping for the parking lot on Mercer St. SPS should swap for 10 acres of Magnuson Park and build the new Jane Addams there. Win for all concerned:

- wouldn't have to demolish Pinehurst building
- some BEX money would be saved from doing the demolition that could instead be used on creating capacity
- could be ready sooner because demolition wouldn't have to be done before construction could begin. Win for Eckstein.
- Pinehurst might not have to be closed
- Total capacity for schools would be higher
- Better location for Jane Addams, from the point of view of available walking-distance field trips for environmental science and being close to its existing neighborhood.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Interesting. I write about what is printed (and written) by real journalists.

I clearly didn't (and didn't mean to) write an in-depth article. I was just wondering out loud - as this is a blog - about it all.

We are all citizens of this city and yes, we do get to muse out loud. It's our tax money and our public land.

I didn't say anyone was getting hoodwinked. (I also said it was entirely possible that a deal was made with the Chihuly group as it may have been.)

All this protesting over some out loud musings about a glass museum. Interesting.

Anonymous said...

Agree with the first two comments. Many times this blog is about poor poor me, look how I/we are getting screwed. The sky is falling.....but never mention this as they will only put it back on you for they can never have done something wrong.

Ted

Charlie Mas said...

Wondering Too,

I can tell you what I know about The Center School's lease.

The lease was started in 1999 and the District paid for the tenant improvements (build out) - and paid pretty dearly.

This Seattle Times story says $3m, but as I recall the actual cost ran WAY over the original estimates.

I cannot find any details about the lease on the District web site. So I don't know the length or any details about who pays for what - not in the District's lease or the other leased areas of Seattle Center. I presume each of the restaurants in the Center House are also paying a lease.

I think we should remember that text has no tone of voice. So let's try to give each other a sympathetic reading and presume that if Mel writes "Just Wondering", then that's what she's doing - just wondering. Not accusing. Not proclaiming. Just curious. That's the starting point.

Sure, she could wait until she has more information before writing, but then she wouldn't be just wondering.

Anonymous said...

It kind of like wondering out loud if Obama was born in Africa. Create an unncessary distraction taht wastes a lot of time, money and cause undo angst.

Ted

Charlie Mas said...

Ted,

Go ahead and wonder it out loud. Then someone will provide evidence that Mr. Obama was born in Hawaii and you can stop wondering.

That's how it works.

Stop the Musing said...

Thanks Ted.

Charlie would be right about Melissa's post but Melissa sprinkles her "musings" with parentheticals. (e.g. her comment "talk about a benefit" concerning the EMP's negotiations over the right to sell liquor).

There is also the envy thread. She suggests that Paul Allen is rich therefore he should pay for the costs of operating the EMP and not look to the city for any givebacks.

I think your analogy about the Obama is African claims is petty close.

Whether Charlie and Melissa like it or not, they have created a platform for their voices. Because of this platform they should hold themselves to a higher standard and refrain from "musings" and present their thoughts, opinions and observations only after they have researched them and vetted them with the interested parties.

They won't because that's hard work and might not always fit their narrative

Wanda said...

Anybody "wonder" about why there was no memorial assembly to honor Veterans Day at Denny this year?

When they tear down the "MEMORIAL (to VETERANS from school children) Stadium", we won't have to wonder why.

Wanda

Not being snarky said...

Melissa,

What is your profession and educational background?

Anonymous said...

Charlie,
I can wonder aloud if u married your cousin, if u have sold illegal things, or if u really are Charlie Maas. I can muse aloud and make u do a lot work to prove somthing. Why would I msu aloud about things I am not knowledge about. To be a troublemaker. To get all eyes on me.muse a loud if u have evidence to support your musings.

Ted

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ted, I didn't say anything like that. How does wondering out loud cost money? What is it a distraction from? And who did it cause angst to?

Stop the Musing, I pointed out that EMP signed a contract to raise their rent every five years. No one forced them. They also have a benefit that no other business (save the Space Needle but they are privately owned) has at the Seattle Center.

As for hard work, you have no idea how much time Charlie and I put into this blog. That we sometimes wonder out loud is something we allow ourselves (and frequently find that readers have been wondering the same thing).

I do wonder about all this fuss. But there I go, wondering out loud again.

Snarky, look for my bio under Contributors.

Anonymous said...

Ted, if you have the answers to these questions, then by all means do share. Otherwise, I'm just not getting the Obama's birth thing other than it's an effort to shut down the discussion by making distasteful comparison.

I like to see public dollars well managed and how it's spent transparent. When it's not transparent, then it's time to ask questions. Just like questions about the proposed $10 million STUDY on extending SLU streetcar while cutting back on more localized bus services and giving us more generalized RR instead, building of light rail, and new bike lanes.

taxpayer

Not snarky said...

Melissa's bio

"Melissa is a long-time public education activist in Seattle. She has co-written the Seattle Schools Community Forum blog since 2006 with Charlie Mas. Melissa served on the Seattle School Board's Closure and Consolidation Committee in 2006 for which she and her fellow committee members were nominated for a Jefferson Award for volunteer service. Melissa received a PTSA Golden Acorn award for her volunteer work. Seattle Magazine named Melissa and Charlie two of the most influential people in Seattle for 2011. She and her husband are the proud parents of two SPS grads"

What is your educational and professional background?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sorry. I wrote that bio a long time ago.

I have a BA in Sociology. I worked in production coordination in both book design and film/video in San Francisco. I have also worked as a children's bookseller. I have written articles for Crosscut, Seattle's Child, Seattle Magazine and the Washington Post.

Anonymous said...

Oh, by the way, here's a piece from Crosscut by David Brewster-(you can emaill him for his education/ professional background info) on his take on Chihully's museum, Seattle center and Seattle's fix on "moreism". Warning to readers, it's all angst and musing of course.

http://crosscut.com/2012/07/26/seattle/109771/more-murkier-seattle-disease/

We would love to visit the glass museum, but not at $19 a pop for adult and $12 for kid, so we get our fix by peering through gaps before their privacy shrubs grow in. And it's great to have a kids' playground at Seattle Center (hopefully Center Art LLC will pay for its maintenance as well and NOT by Parks & Rec budget), but I really prefer better playgrounds in local neighborhoods where kids can walk to/from without fear of thugs and rx stuff littered about.

Hey if we want to revitalize Seattle, how about spending $10 million on better training of our SPDs and hiring better qualified, temperate, ethical uniforms to cover neighborhoods in crisis. Try getting on/off at Rainier Beach ST station (our family call it the gauntlet) or Northgate park and ride without your spidy sense and you are just asking to be mugged. Or how about $10 millions in schools or local metro buses so our elderly parents don't have to walk 10 blocks uphill (vs. 2 blocks) to catch a RR while haulilng groceries in cart/ see their MDs on 1st Hill). Or walking their toddler grandkids that distance because you know us working class people who can't afford expensive and quality daycare have to work more to pay for the $10 million study for people in Ballard to go work in SLU via the new streetcar (crossing over the same ol' Freemont Bridge or a gazillion dollar new dedicated streetcar bridge???? while the Magnolia bridge is under 24 hr. watch, while the aging Ballard bridge and all other N/S bridges are under constant repair/stress). I guess I shouldn't even mention how well the 520 bridge replacement is going or the South Park bridge.....)

Gosh, more musings likened to Obama's birth thing I guess. And no I'm not a journalist or have a PhD or works for a billionaire foundation or a sports team. I just know I pay taxes, vote for levies, and wonder all the time how in the past 15 years, basic services to my community keeps going downhill.

PO taxpayer

mirmac1 said...

Sorry PO'd taxpayer. You are overqualified to be pissed. And, like me, not qualified to whine. So let's just sit here with drool running down our chins....

Tax Payer Too said...

P.O. Taxpayer.

The percentage of taxes going to pay for health care/retirement benefits and "bargained for" COLA increases for public sector workers has gone up significantly.

In future years they will continue to take a bigger slice of the pie relative to those services you would like to see.

Anonymous said...

I don't know enough about COLA to comment. I suspect though just like the federal fiscal cliff, the public pension cliff will force the debate and the solutions. But I want more accountability, better management, and transparency out there. I am angry at my Seattle Council reps and see too little response from the Mayor (who I voted for) for the conditions within our communities. On the national level, I am optimisitic we may be getting somewhere. On the local level, I see more public dollars going to revitalize and favor our many "downtowns" over the years as if Seattle doesn't exist beyond Pioneer Sq, Belltown, Denny Triangle- SLU, and now the New Ballard and SODO arenas. And I wouldn't even mind that if I see the upkeep of such revitalization (take Belltown and Pioneer Sq. and how dangerous these areas have gotten), but nope, onto newer toys and schemes. We have too many basic infrastructures that need fixing first, not just what the next venture captialist or billionaire investor call for.

Not so PO'd now that I got it off my chest. (Sorry about my bad grammar/spelling though... long night, typing too fast, and my editor is at school.)

less PO'd taxpayer

Someone said...

Hmmm... weird reactions to this post. What I take away from the comments is that this blog has, (in part I suspect, because of the Charter Schools conversation,) grown out of it's original...well audience. There's an expectation among some of more....

But really, at heart, despite the charter issue it's really just a pair of articulate, hometown writers, who care deeply about Seattle schools and how the big picture of "education" impacts those schools. There will always be moments of human-ness here, were things are imperfect, and maybe not as fleshed out as a larger, media outlet can provide.

But that's not it's role, at least in my mind - it's a place that makes you go hmmmm... and look into a topic on your OWN and think for yourself about an issue raised and ask pertinent questions. To expect more of people who are doing this because they CARE and not because they are PAID is a disservice to all.

Thanks Melissa and Charlie for being here - you've been a sounding board and a dinner table conversation starter more than you'll ever know - take the criticisms as compliments - it means you are getting to someone. When there is silence, THEN you can worry ;o)