A large crowd of no fewer than 200 people crowded into the standing room only meeting room of the Northshore Utility District building on Aug. 25 to hear about a proposal for Saint Edwards Seminary and a request for a time extension from Daniels Real Estate firm to the state.
“State Parks, about a year ago, had a commission meeting and in that commission meeting, the commission gave direction to staff to work to find a partner to rehabilitate the building. That year is about to expire in September,” said Michael Hankinson, Washington State Parks and Recreation department. “At a staff level, we have reviewed what Kevin Daniels presented to us last week and we feel it has enough merit to explore further.”
A few weeks ago, The Bothell-Kenmore Reporter revealed a new proposal for the seminary which would turn the dilapidated and decaying building, currently owned by the financially deprived Washington State Parks and Recreation Department, into a lodge like those found on many national parks.
“It’s a new concept to State Parks, our commissioners are not familiar with it, so we’re starting at the very beginning,” Hankinson said.
Usually, the public is not included until after a concept has been fleshed out, however the Parks and Rec. Department decided to start the process concerning the seminary building with a public forum and a little education about the park itself.
“Did you know that our trail system cuts right through the middle of [the McDonald property]?” Hankinson asked citizens at the meeting. “When people take that trail that goes down to the water, they’re trespassing.”
The Daniels Real Estate firm will exchange a 10-acre plot of McDonald land for the seminary, ensuring that hikers won’t be trespassing, along with adding to the existing park shoreline.
In return, the Daniels group would get about eight acres around the building along with the building itself, and plans to rehabilitate the seminary.
Kevin Daniels, president of the Daniels Real Estate Firm, was first introduced to the building when Bastyr University came to his firm with the idea of bringing the seminary back as dorm rooms and classrooms.
“Unfortunately, that’s when I fell in love with the building,” Daniels said. “I’ll be up-front, I have a problem falling in love with buildings. I love the building, I love its setting [and] I love that great park. It’s just a magnificent oasis in this urban village we live in.”
The process began with a letter of interest from Kevin Daniels outlining a concept for a lodge that would have a restaurant, spa and, most importantly, it would open the building to the public for the first time in more than 40 years.
“We’ve been looking at other options, all with one goal: to save that building,” Daniels said. “We didn’t think other ideas would fit in that setting, so we toned it down to where we are today.”
Most of the concerns revolved around the impact of the concept-lodge to park-goers, whether in lost parks space or in lost parking spaces to access the park.
“The big change in what you will see there today, or 40 years ago when it was closed, is that the public will get to use it… it has to be something for the community, that they can use,” Daniels said. “It is an amazing asset of the community. I’ll say it again: I’m here to save that building.”
While some were outspoken against the plan, many participants of the open meeting with the Washington State Parks and Recreation Department were supportive of the concept and hoped that someone would come and save the seminary.
“This is a great opportunity, I think, to do something for the public good. The proof of the pudding was working with Kevin, Trevina and the rest of the team,” said Sheldon Haber, Vice President for Finance and Administration of Bastyr University. “Everything that you see is real. The DNA of Bastyr is very similar to the DNA of Daniels Real Estate, [and] I think its similar to the DNA of the city of Kenmore and Washington State Parks. We have nothing but positive experiences with the Daniels Real Estate group.”
“Where else are you going to find a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation?” asked Haber in a conversation with The Reporter.
Kevin Daniels is not only a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, but has also brought many local iconic buildings back from the brink of destruction, including the First Methodist Church and the Starbucks Building in Seattle.
If the extension is not granted, the Washington State Parks and Recreation staff currently occupying the building during work-days will vacate the building, it will be boarded up and may even be fenced off to keep would-be trespassers out.
“Plan B is to vacate the building. It means boarding up the windows, it means maybe putting up a fence around it, … and so there are conventional ways that State Parks will go about vacating the building,” Hankinson said. “In general, the building, if left vacant, will fall apart over time. It means we are not going to invest in the building at all. We’re going to shut off the water, electricity, the building will flood and that will make the building deteriorate.”
An outlook that would leave future generations bereft of this landmark and historic building.
“You’re talking about a building built by one of the leading architects of the first half of the century, a gentleman by the name of John Graham, Sr. You may know his son better, he built that little thing called the Space Needle,” Daniels said. “This is one of [Graham, Sr.’s] best projects, if not his best project. This building is of national significance, of state significance, of town significance and of Kenmore significance. You have a great asset there.”
The meeting was the first of many the Washington State Parks and Recreation Department plans of hosting with the Kenmore community concerning their opinions of what should happen to the seminary.
For more information, please visit the Washington State parks website, www.parks.wa.gov. Interested persons can also view the documents provided by the Daniels Real Estate firm for their concept of the seminary building.