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Friday, April 23, 2010

Uh oh, Here Comes Vulcan

The Seattle PI has links to various neighborhood blogs around the city. It's always good to keep up so I like to pick one and read it. Today I picked the South Lake Union blog and it's by a woman who lives in South Lake Union. The title is "Vulcan's Grip on South Lake Union: the how and why of managing a neighborhood".

From the blog:

Your average developer creates spaces for living, working and playing and then moves on to the next project. Vulcan's role is unique because they have the power to shape not just one building, but an entire neighborhood and they will always have a presence in South Lake Union, even after the last brick is laid.

Naturally, the Vulcan team is acutely aware of their special status, which is why they also envision themselves as being responsible for connecting people in the neighborhood, their prime example being the South Lake Union Chamber of Commerce. I was also surprised to learn that, since the new public school boundaries have been drawn, Vulcan's people have been working with parent advocates from Queen Anne to learn about what the school experience might be like for our kids. Call me naive, and I'm sure some of you will, but I had no idea they were so involved in the day to day details of family life in South Lake Union. (bold mine)

South Lake Union had stakeholders from both the South Lake Union and Queen Anne Community Councils sit down and work on recommendations that would work for their neighborhoods. The document they created talks about school creation and was signed by Susan Gorman of a group called South Lake Union Schools Coalition. This group includes the children served by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, the Spruce Street School, downtown's only K-5 elementary school (private), Morningside Academy which is a private K-8, Cascade Children's Corner, a daycare/preschool and New Discovery School, a nursery-pre-K program.

From the document:

"Both South Lake Union and Uptown will absorb unprecedented growth in the next 10-20 years. The City's Comprehensive Plan targets these two centers for 20% of all new jobs and 20% of all new households in the city between now and 2024. There are no other areas in the City targeted for growth at so rapid a rate."

"Explore ways to accommodate schools to serve these neighborhoods. Consider nontraditional school models such as classrooms in various buildings vs a campus or special curriculum schools." (I'm not sure what they mean by special curriculum.)"

They also thank Councilman Conlin who participated (Sally Clark was there as well). Conlin mentioned to the Board at the recent joint meeting with the City Council and School Board for the district to NOT forget that the downtown area wants to have a school.

Now the district is already in the process of working out a deal with the City about Memorial Stadium. The initial plan is for the City to take over the parking lot space (with the parking lot going underground) and the City to trade that for a nearby parking garage. The district hasn't made specific plans but did say it could be used for a high school.

So that would leave K-8 to be served so maybe a K-8 is what might be created for this area.

I bring this to your attention because, fyi , Vulcan is owned by Paul Allen (co-founder of Microsoft). Mr. Allen, like Bill Gates, is pretty used to getting what he wants from the City (note how fast he got his streetcar). I don't think anyone will be waiting until 2014 to start on this so I suspect the district is already working on it in some way.

If we have that many more people (and their children) in that area, it does make sense. It does have big ramifications as opening a brand-new school in what is likely to be a brand-new building hasn't happened in a long time. (I'm think AAA was the last one.) Perhaps as soon as the district gets the parking garage, it may start having a plan in place to create a new high school while planning where to place a K-8 (or elementary and middle school).

Keep in mind that this neighborhood will want/require more services and infrastructure. There's a lot of neighborhoods out there that have been waiting for their turn and I have to wonder how much Mr. Allen will be able to get what he and the residents of this area will get and how soon.

12 comments:

gavroche said...

I've also heard such rumblings, and this projected growth in SLU may have helped fasttrack the creation of Queen Anne Elementary, and, what's more troubling, may have influenced the District's decision to cut out citywide transportation to TOPS in a few years.

I have heard from a SCPTSA person that TOPS is the closest SPS school to SLU and that people in that hood may have their eye on it. Makes me wonder if TOPS might be turned into a neighborhood school ultimately, in order to accommodate these projected SLU schoolkids. That would come as a severe loss to the many families throughout the city who value TOPS as an option for their kids too.

It will be interesting to watch if Mr. Allen gets some grand things to happen speedily from SPS for his hood (and it is his hood, really, isn't it?).

I'm still wondering though if SLU really will be the booming family neighborhood these folks are predicting it will be. It seems more of a young urban professional neighborhood -- for one thing, isn't it mostly condos they're building there?

I know trends may change toward urban living, but my gut feeling is that once they have families, SLU workers will set up house in outlying neighborhoods with yards and non-busy streets, and then send their kids to the existing local SPS neighborhood schools.

No matter what Vulcan does to SLU, it still remains an extremely urban, somewhat industrial corridor sandwiched between major freeways and thoroughfares. Not an obvious or ideal choice for a family neighborhood in my book.

Charlie Mas said...

In real cities, like New York, people raise children in town. People who want the urban experience and want to live close to downtown might just be willing to raise their children there as well.

Personally, I don't see the appeal of suburbs, but clearly a lot of families think that's what they want. There will be families downtown and the District should get ready for them.

There's no reason that a K-8 school couldn't go in parking lot space across the street from Memorial Stadium. There's no reason that a K-8 or a high school couldn't go into a building in SLU. It would be totally feasible.

The school could go into one of the existing buildings or some space could be created through demolition and construction. An office building would be a perfectly legitimate space for a school - if the sound-proofing were better than usual.

TechyMom said...

Even in Seattle, there is a trend to stay in more urban areas with kids. The Broadway area is full of kids, where you almost never saw anyone under 14 there in the 90's. Condos are far more affordable than single-family homes. As long as there are parks nearby (which SLU has), the lack of a back yard may not be a deal-breaker for some families.

Could they do a K-12 school on that site?

Josh Hayes said...

You may well be right, gavroche - I heard that the "projected" TOPS enrollment is way down. What a remarkable coincidence, huh? That SPS Central is trying to scare people away?

Shannon said...

Spruce Street school (private, alternative) is in the Denny triangle nearby. Its in an old building on a city street and does not look like the typical facility but its a great program with long waitlists.

Johnny Calcagno said...

I know I’m being incredibly na├»ve, but I think it would be fantastic to have more public schools downtown. Any number of configurations would make sense: K-5, K-8, pre-school-5, high school.

Some reasons: Proximity to transportation services (ferries, light rail, busses, cars), access to arts and technical partners, and opportunities for working parents to volunteer in their kids’ classrooms.

Josh, TOPS enrollment will be as high as ever next year (and I greatly suspect in coming years), and at any rate it’s already a school with a model that is working. This district doesn’t have so many successful programs that it should be blowing up the functional ones. And honestly, it isn’t THAT close to the downtown core.

It makes much more sense to create a new downtown school or schools (perhaps with additional funding provided by some of that South Lake Union filthy lucre), with a ton of community engagement beforehand. Maybe you have a comprehensive plan that somehow takes into consideration the Center School.

Stu said...

This district doesn’t have so many successful programs that it should be blowing up the functional ones.

and

.... with a ton of community engagement beforehand.

Oh, God . . . stop it . . .you're killing me.
Phew . . . good stuff. Thanks. I really needed that tonight.

stu

Josh Hayes said...

Oh, Johnny, I KNOW TOPS is successful, and I'm sure enrollment will be full with a waitlist - but I was given to understand that SPS budgeted the school as if it was going to see a decline in enrollment. Which is ludicrous. Why would they say that when everyone knows it ain't true?

Maybe I'm just too darn suspicious for my own good: I'm always looking for the real motive when someone lies.

Maureen said...

Maybe Vulcan and the Gates Foundation should bankroll a Math/Science/Visual Art K-8 Option School that could feed into STEM@Cleveland and the Center School. And work on expanding Center on the parking garage Site. Wouldn't that be cool?

cascade said...

A downtown high school at Seattle Center on District property: great.

Many of us down here would oppose funding a new K8 school. Funds are too short. Other neighborhoods need facilities too. SLU/Cascade and Eastlake all flow into each other and we populate each others' neighborhoods as a matter of course for shopping, culture, eating, parks, etc. TOPS is on the 70 bus line and would also be served by the streetcar to the 70.

District and city people both know this well and in side comments have thought about this for years. Many of us think this is eminently reasonable. Let TOPS keep its program at Seward...or not. Simply change its enrollment draw. Just do not go building a K through 8 facility downtown when a perfectly reasonable solution already exists.

And TT Minor could-should also be reopened before K through 8 building downtown.

I'm sure all you TOPS people are going to jump down my throat, but get a grip. If you think the downtown isn't diverse enough for your social justice school, you need to get out of your building and start exploring.

uxolo said...

No thanks, Maureen.
"Maybe Vulcan and the Gates Foundation should bankroll a Math/Science/Visual Art K-8 Option School that could feed into STEM@Cleveland and the Center School."

Vulcan doesn't donate or fund - Vulcan convinces businesses and Seattle's citizens of its good ideas.Then there's the history of the relationship between one of our Deputy Mayors and Vulcan.

Josh Hayes said...

I think cascade is onto something here. If alternative schools are successful, they should be turned over to local families. Why should the whole city get the benefit when it can be constrained to locals only?

And maybe they should put a sign up at the school: "Sorry, Seattle - Locals Only", and under that, "Hey! We're diverse enough!"

[rolls eyes]