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State Parks to host workshop, discussion of Saint Edward Seminary building's fate | UPDATE

The Saint Edward Seminary was built in 1930. - Reporter file photo
The Saint Edward Seminary was built in 1930.
— image credit: Reporter file photo

Washington State Parks is beginning a planning process to evaluate a potential long-term lease of the seminary building located at Saint Edward State Park in Kenmore on the boundary with Kirkland.

The public is invited to a workshop Jan. 14 to give their input on the building's future. The meeting is from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the North Shore Utility District Meeting Room, located at 6830 NE 185th St. in Kenmore.

"I just really hope that this meeting tells us all what we want to know; and that is, what will happen to the park surrounding this building," said Tom Fitzpatrick, member of the Friends of Saint Edward State Park. "There's been so many issues surrounding this building over the years and so many rumors. Basically, the most important thing to me is that we keep the integrity of the park."

The Saint Edward Seminary, situated within Saint Edward State Park, is a historic property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The seminary is in poor condition and continues to deteriorate despite considerable investment and effort to stabilize the structure.

The Washington Trust for Historic Preservation has identified historic properties in the state park system, including the Seminary, as among Washington’s most threatened and the commission has not been successful securing adequate state capital funding to open the Seminary structure for public use and ensure its ongoing stabilization.

Washington State Parks is beginning a planning process to evaluate a potential long-term lease of the seminary building located at Saint Edward State Park. The seminary structure and associated cultural landscape were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

During the past several months, a group of historic preservation, political and community leaders, has been meeting with Washington State Parks, to discuss how to preserve the Saint Edward Seminary building and grounds. In response to emerging potential for partnerships, the Washington State Parks Commission adopted a resolution on Nov. 14, 2013 authorizing the Director to "explore partnerships with other public and private sector entities for the purpose of rehabilitating the Saint Edward Seminary building."

A private real estate broker approached Washington State Parks with a proposal to lease the seminary on a long-term basis in November. The client has chosen to stay anonymous and all parties are complying with the request. The firm has indicated that the client is a locally based software company specializing in cyber security and that the interest in building use is for office space and related functions.

The discussions have gone so far as broker Kidder Mathews' representatives drafting a letter of understanding outlining preliminary lease details. The idea that the organization attempting to lease the building may have ties to the department of defense riled many in the community.

Any lease of the building would have a direct impact on Bastyr University by the increased traffic on the two-lane road through the park.

Built in 1930, the seminary needs an estimated $40 million in restoration. The Washington State Parks invested $2.4 million in storm drainage, water proofing, grading, paving and replanting in 2008 and 2009. Most of the building has been closed to the public during the past four decades.

In 1976, Archbishop Raymond Hunthausen announced the closure of the seminary. One year later the building and 316 acres were sold to the Washington State Parks for $7 million.

State parks is beginning a public planning process to evaluate this proposal and develop recommendations to the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission on an appropriate development plan.

In January 2007, following an extensive public process, state parks adopted a park management plan including land classifications and a long-term park boundary to provide direction for future preservation and development of the park. These agency actions will serve as a starting point for the current evaluation process.

Last week, State Parks staff organized a meeting with Kidder Mathews and several participants in last summer’s exploratory discussion. As a result, state parks staff determined the agency should move forward to explore the proposal. While continuing to gather public comment, state parks intends to pursue a short-term agreement and a long-term lease exploration.

Short-term, they plan to prepare a temporary right-of-entry agreement authorizing the client’s representatives access to the Seminary Building to make improvements necessary for the client to establish occupancy quickly. Such improvements would bring a small part of the structure up to a secure, usable standard; for example, cleaning and routing utility and communication lines into the building. The intent of the right-of-entry would be to avoid or minimize any changes in public use of the park during the term of the temporary agreement. A draft right-of-entry agreement will be available to the public at the Jan. 14 meeting in Kenmore and will be included in a report to the Commission at its regular meeting Jan. 23 in Olympia.

The long-term lease exploration involves working with the client’s representatives to develop and evaluate a long-term lease proposal. This includes preparing building and site rehabilitation plans and conducting an environmental review process with appropriate public participation, prior to commission consideration of a lease proposal. State parks will decide the specifics of this process for this second step in the coming months.

“We believe we have an obligation as the steward of this significant historic building to explore this lease proposal,” said Don Hoch, director. “It is unlikely that state parks will receive sufficient capital funds to take care of the building, and the brokerage firm has expressed that its client has the means and willingness to make a significant investment."

Hoch emphasized that all necessary and appropriate planning, permitting, environmental review and public involvement would need to be completed before the Commission could consider a long-term agreement.

"If we want to keep the proposal alive for further evaluation, we need to allow the client to occupy some part of the building relatively quickly," Hoch said. "So we want to do what we can to make that happen so we can explore the longer term potential.”

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