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City begins new effort on Old Woodinville Schoolhouse

  • Written by Bill Lewis

The long-running effort to develop the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse entered a new phase Feb. 7, when the Woodinville City Council hired a consultant to help find a developer for the schoolhouse and nearby buildings on the city’s Civic Campus.

Under the terms of a $110,000 contract approved by the council, Leland Consulting Group of Portland will determine a development strategy and begin the process of selecting a developer that would find a new use for the site as part of a public-private partnership.

The action, said Councilmember Elaine Cook, signals “a commitment to take an economically feasible plan to a developer” as soon as early June.

Economic feasibility has been a roadblock to a decade-long effort to redevelop the vacant building located on the city’s 175th Street Civic Campus in downtown Woodinville. In October 2015, the council turned down a renovation proposal from a developer who would have purchased the building and renovated it to make space for restaurants, wine tasting rooms and a museum.

Although the proposal drew support on the council and from historic preservation groups, it was turned down because it would also have required the city to spend several million dollars on construction of a parking facility.

The new effort will seek a proposal to develop the entire campus site, including the Carol Edwards Center and former Sorenson Elementary School building, not just the old schoolhouse.
“Where this differs dramatically from other efforts is that it includes the whole 3 acres” of the site, said Brandon Buchanan, city manager.

The four-room brick schoolhouse was constructed in 1909. It was expanded in the 1930s with funding from the federal government’s depression-era Works Progress Administration. The building was used as a school until the 1980s, and was Woodinville’s first City Hall from 1993 to 2001, following Woodinville’s incorporation as a city.

Now unoccupied, the Old Schoolhouse is at risk of falling into a state of disrepair that might prevent it from being preserved as a useable historic landmark, said Jennifer Mortensen, preservation services coordinator of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.

“It’s a critical time for this building, and I don’t think it has much time left,” Mortensen told council members.

The trust has endorsed the new effort to redevelop the school, which appeared on the organization’s Most Endangered Historical Properties list for 2016.

The new push for developing the site has also drawn support from the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce.

“We need you to get it going tonight, and stick with it all the way to completion,” Dave Witt, chamber executive director, told council members.

Leland Consulting Group Principal Brian Vanneman said that in working on the Old Schoolhouse project, the firm would use expertise it has gained in putting together other public-private development plans elsewhere in the Northwest, including the formulation of a master plan for the Everett Marina District, and a downtown revitalization project in Lake Oswego, Oregon.
As part of developing a design strategy, Vanneman said Lelan would use the services of an architectural firm, as well as consultants with expertise in finding developers and dealing with parking issues.

Councilmember Lou Rubstello said he was impressed with Leland’s pledge to finish the preliminary project  work quickly, and be prepared to a seek a developer for the project within four months.

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