Building on history

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It’s lovely to dream about a grand inheritance, but sometimes what we inherit costs us more than we expected. This is the case with an existing lease for Building 11 at Magnuson Park.

Building 11, like many others at Magnuson, is a victim of old age. Inherited from the U.S. Navy in 1999, it needs renovation work that our Parks Department can’t afford.  

Photo: Dean Rutz, Seattle Times

The City of Seattle conducted a competitive process in 2005 to restore and operate Building 11, and in the fall of 2008, the previous administration signed a lease with the successful bidder to make major improvements to the building–improvements totaling $9 million dollars. Construction is about to begin under that 2008 lease.

Not a penny of City money will be used on this project. The developer is responsible for all construction and permitting costs, for maintenance over the life of the lease, and for turning over a refurbished building to the City when the lease concludes. Recreation uses are guaranteed for about one-third of the building for the duration of the lease.

A proposed amendment to the existing lease has been the source of much public debate over the past few months. I’ve listened carefully to the concerns from the existing tenants and the public, and I’ve spent time with stakeholders, including Sail Sand Point, resident artists, interested neighbors, and leaders of community organizations. I have encouraged Parks staff to address those concerns and to work toward increasing the public benefit as part of the lease amendment negotiations.

Christopher Williams, Acting Superintendent of Parks, has shared a very detailed account of the matter, including the lease amendment process and the legal requirements. The document is available here and I encourage you to read it.

Sand Point Historic District includes Building 11, located at the top left corner of the map

I have received many emails and calls in support of Sail Sand Point (SSP). As a sailor myself, and a one-time student of SSP, I regard their programming as an important community resource. The Parks Department and I want Sail Sand Point to stay at Magnuson Park.

Let me clear up some of the concerns regarding Sail Sand Point (SSP). SSP will have guaranteed space in Building 11. Parks has signed an agreement with SSP, granting them exclusive use of 69,000 square feet of dry boat storage for next to nothing: $1 per year. SSP will be able to use the revenue generated by this space to help fund their programming.

I met with SSP representatives and heard their concerns. Parks responded to each one and pressed the developer to make changes to the lease, including a reduced price lease, paid utilities, changing areas for students, authority to rent kayaks, and better waterfront access. SSP asked to have a Parks representative act as a facilitator during the term of the lease, and that, too, was approved.

I appreciate the expressed concern about extended leases and public/private partnerships. I agree, public land must not be turned over to private parties for personal gain. This deal for Building 11 was approved in 2008, and amendments have been negotiated by Parks to include artists and recreation uses at reduced rent. Will we please everyone? No. Is this lease perfect? No. Is it better?  Yes.

Naval Air Station Seattle in its previous life as an active base. Building 11 is in the lower right corner. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

My goal is to acknowledge and build on the community’s desire for a magnificent Magnuson Park, and it’s my intent to harness this energy and passion to focus on the park as a whole. I am dedicated to improving the community space desired by so many people and helping protect the historic vision for one of our greatest parks.

I’ll be working with Mayor McGinn and Superintendent Christopher Williams, and I’ll invite community members to engage in a conversation about Magnuson Park’s future, our vision for the park, and what we need to do to make it a reality.