Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Guess It's a Done Deal

According to an article in the Seattle Times, the deal between Seattle Public Schools and the City of Seattle over the Memorial Stadium acreage is just about done. I am honestly quite surprised as I thought the public would at least be given more than one option to consider and time to consider it. And, since this is a very busy time of year, it is quite convenient for both the City and the district to push this through without a lot of notice or question.

(The article states that Ron English, the district lead on this one, OMG, says that the MOU is out there for all to see. Where?)

There are two main issues to this problem. One, the district is in the driver's seat. They should NOT be greedy but considering their past issues with land usage and retention, they should proceed carefully and get the best deal possible. The citizens of Seattle are not the district's first priority - the students of SPS are.

Two, how do we honor our war dead? That wall's purpose (and it's in the motto on it) is to remind students who attend the games and play there of the sacrifice of students who came before them and fought and died in WWII. It is not just a WWII memorial wall - it is a student memorial wall. To move it elsewhere negates this and there's no getting around it. Is this what we will do in 50 years to 9/11 memorials? To memorials for soldiers fighting and dying in Iraq and Afghanistan? Move them when they become inconvenient?

From the article:

"In exchange for giving up Memorial Stadium, the Seattle School District could end up owning a nearby block that now houses a parking garage and gain the use of a new, smaller stadium/amphitheater the city would build on what now is Memorial Stadium's parking lot."


"Our goal was to gain control of the space, and put it back into public use," said Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams.
As part of the deal, the district would retain ownership of the Memorial Stadium parking-lot property, which it would lease to the city for 60 years for somewhere between $2 million and $3 million a year — an amount officials say is designed to reimburse the district for lost parking fees and part of the value of the stadium.
The deal also would meet the district's goals of maintaining a stadium downtown and keeping open the option of building a new school in the center of the city.

I'm not surprised that the City wants control of the space considering it is in the middle of Seattle Center. But the district owned that property long before Seattle Center existed so I'm not sure the City should get that pushy about it. But personally, if the City wanted to donate land to the district and help pay for a new stadium elsewhere, I don't know why the district would have a
"goal" of keeping a stadium downtown.


Both sides insisted on preserving, but moving, the wall outside Memorial Stadium that is engraved with the names of 760 area former students who fought and died in World War II. "The [current] condition of the stadium and the condition of the wall doesn't honor anyone and we could do so much better," Nellams said.

He's right; the district hasn't done right by the memorial wall but that doesn't mean moving it is a better solution.

"As part of a 20-year plan for Seattle Center approved last year, the city proposed replacing the stadium with a two-level underground parking and a transit hub, capped by a "great lawn" and a smaller facility that, with the use of removable seats, could be used as a stadium for 5,000 people, or an amphitheater for up to 12,000. It would be built on what is now Memorial Stadium's parking lot."

Again, the parents and students of SPS will be using that stadium many more times than the 6 weeks of having concerts in the summer. SPS needs the best deal for them.


Once the underground parking lot is finished, the city would tear down the Mercer Garage, and give half of that property — one city block — to the school district. That site, English said, would be big enough to build a new high school if the district ever decided to do so.
• The school district would have priority use of the new stadium/amphitheater for athletic events from the Friday before Labor Day to seven days before Memorial Day, and for graduations in June.

I'd have to ponder if I think a new high school downtown is a good idea. We may need it as this city grows. But as I said previously, do we need it now? Where would the money come from to build a new high school (and how could we given the state of our current facilities)?

I just want the best deal for SPS students and a lasting legacy to those students who attended our SPS high schools and fought and died in WWII.


Thursday: Briefing for Seattle School Board, 3:30-5 p.m.,
John Stanford Center, 2445 3rd Ave. S.
Monday: Briefing for Seattle City Council during regular 9:30 a.m. council meeting in council chambers
Dec. 17: Public hearing to be held by Seattle School District, time and place to be determined.


wseadawg said...

Why keep a stadium downtown? Maybe because all roads, bridges, transit and rail lead to downtown. Who wants a new stadium, along with the crowds and traffic, in their neighborhood and who has room? What about the equity of having something centrally located for the whole city?

Joan NE said...

I am just in the middle of reviewing board policies, and this is an example of one glaring problem with Board policy: there is no insistence on meaningful public engagement by either the Board or the District. The voters pledge that I am working on with others will probably make this a focal point of the demands.

Anyone who is interested to help in some way with this pledge (reviewing the draft, setting up a website, strategic planning, soliciting pledges, compiling the documentation to justify one of the demands, etc.) please email me at joan@mathascent.org

TechyMom said...

I'd like to see a downtown high school for the same reasons. Put something really attractive there (Language Immersion? IB? Gifted Academy? Expanded Center School arts program? HS/Community College on the same campus? Some combination?). Make it an option school, with Queen Anne and Magnolia as the geographic zone. I expect it would take 5 years to build a new high school, and there is a couple years lead time before the city is ready to tear down the existing garage. That would have the building coming online a little before the current bubble of PK-2 kids are hitting high school.

Patrick said...

What would Seattle Schools do with the small block that's now Mercer Garage? It seems too small for a school, especially a high school. I think of them as needing athletic fields for PE and practice, probably an auditorium, parking for the teachers and some students, dropoff space that's not on a major street like Mercer. Is there significant school-age population near Seattle Center? I am doubtful.

Maybe the School District should sell the land and use the proceeds to buy a site for a high school in a better location, for instance for Queen Anne/Magnolia.

I'm not sure it's worth it from the city's point of view either. $200M to demolish an adequate parking garage and put it underground instead, and make a big lawn even bigger?

Syd said...

That Mercer garage is on Queen Anne, lower Queen Anne. Queen Anne wants a high school; this seems reasonable. Where else on QA could it reasonably go?
That stadium is old. It probably needs to be rebuilt.
The district gets all the money they are currently taking in for the parking lot, a new stadium, and space for a school. Sounds like a good deal to me.

Charlie Mas said...

There appears to be land available in the Interbay area. It strikes me as an attractive site for a high school, but it might be too close to Ballard. What about further south on Western, closer to F5 Networks and CTI?

As for the idea of a high school right by Seattle Center, I don't need to remind anyone of The Center School, do I?

SolvayGirl said...

The Center School's lease is up in 4 years. I hope the District will renew, but there are no guarantees. There's also the question of where the school will go --physically-- while the City is remodeling The Center House. This is an issue for a variety of organizations; Book-It Theater, for example, has been looking for new digs for a while now.

Patrick said...

Yes, Seattle Center is in lower Queen Anne. However, it is at the edge of Queen Anne, and relatively far from the center of the school-age population. Mercer Garage is also too small a site for a high school, and has insufficient parking for evening or weekend events at the high school. Lower Queen Anne real estate is particularly expensive. We could probably have a better site for the same or less cost on upper Queen Anne, Interbay, or Magnolia.

h2o girl said...

Here's a crazy idea - make McClure a high school, make Blaine a middle school, and re-open Magnolia Elementary. Bingo - QA and Mag are self-contained. The Queen Anne Bowl is down the hill from McClure - football practice could be there. Or if folks feel strongly about having Blaine be a K-8 make Magnolia the middle school.

Moose said...

H20 girl -- In theory, it is not a bad idea to make McClure a high school. But the reality is that McClure is teeny. It is one of the smallest middle school buildings in the district. So it would mean a tear down and re-build or a huge remodel. Personally, I think that Lincoln is a better option than McClure.

Kelly Charlton said...

It is a very complicated transaction that will executed over nearly 100 years, involving hundreds of millions of dollars, and includes a great deal of political and legislative risk.

The very high level view is that SPS is trading 9 acres of land in Seattle Center in return for 1.5 acres of land from the City.

Certainly on the surface this does not appear to be a fair deal for SPS.