What To Do With the Surplus? (Properties, not Money)
"Regardless of what the board decides, there's little chance of the 1913 building being reopened as a public school. The brick structure sits on less than 2 acres, far smaller than the district's minimum site size of 4 acres. And demographers don't expect much growth in the neighborhood in coming years, meaning extra school space there is unlikely to be needed.
Still, declaring the property surplus wouldn't automatically mean it will be sold, district spokesman David Tucker said. "All this does is put the property in the position to which it could be considered for lease or sale."
The district has closed more than 30 school sites since 1970 and sold about a dozen of them. Most of the rest are leased to community groups or are used as interim sites for schools whose buildings are undergoing renovations."
But, as the story continues:
"Some people have called to let us know that they'd be interested in the property if and when it becomes available for sale," district facilities manager Fred Stephens said. Most of the offers were from community groups or private schools, he said, though he declined to name them.
Representatives from The Bush School, a private school next to the M.L. King site, are among those who have voiced interest. While they have no solid plans, incorporating the King building into their campus would allow more space for the school's roughly 580 students, Bush spokesman Andrew Sproule said."And this was the cry during closures, that MLK was being closed so the district could sell the building to The Bush School right behind it.
Then, on Jan. 16th, this story was in the PI about neighbors who want it for a community center.
"For 100 years, Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary was not just a school, but also a magnet for a diverse community. Within walkable distance for most residents, it drew them for arts performances, spaghetti dinners, May Day dances, community council meetings and other gatherings. It served as the local polling place during elections, and the place where little kids learned to ride their bikes and teenagers shot hoops.
"I'm just adamant that it be a community center; it already was, it was never just a school," said Adrienne Bailey, who attended the school when it was called Harrison Elementary. "It was always multiracial, and it has always been a hallowed place for kids and families."
Bailey is among the neighbors who last year joined the steering committee for Citizens for a Community Center at MLK, a neighborhood group urging Seattle Public Schools to allow it to lease the building for a variety of mostly nonprofit activities."This group was recently granted $1M allotment from the state for revitalizing the building.
And so this brings up a difficult choice; what to do with empty buildings? When I was on the CAC, I had the job of reading all the e-mails we received. It was almost split down the middle over selling the buildings for as high a price as we could get versus repurposing them to serve the neighborhoods they sit in.
As I have mentioned previously, the company that guided the CAC expressed surprise over how many excess buildings the district has. Most districts just don't carry around this kind of excess of empty buildings.
The CAICEE group had, as one of their suggestions, that the district have a property manager. (The district currently has one, a district lawyer, but it may be worth it to have someone who has more expertise.) Maybe that would help.
But as we close buildings, we have to remember; the district has to keep them up in some fashion or they become vacant targets and eyesores to a neighborhood.