FoCS minutes, 2008 03 29

Minutes from Friends of Columbia School Meeting: Saturday, March 29, 2008

Attending: Sue Gibbs, Mikala Woodward, Scott Barkan, Rebecca Cate, Melinda Mann, Joan Robbins, Spencer Noland, Jim Mueller, Kym Allen, Howard Fuller, Kim Calender, SynnSereda, Rick Hargreaves, Mary Raunig, John Hook, Scott Ringgold, Gary Owens, Bob Barnes, Ven Lucas

Introductions and outline of agenda. :

I. Opening Comments from Attendees:

  • Want stake in community-it was a public use before and public should have a say in future use
  • Sustainable Seattle – has ideas for space that would incorporate sustainability issues
  • Zion Prep Academy representatives interested in space for the relocation of their preK -8
  • Tenants Union – wants to see public benefit to public resource – not privatization
  • Have school district realize revenue out of site – will need to charge market value
  • Convert to concert hall and lecture hall similar to Town Hall downtown
  • Equitable development – need to ensure needs of all neighborhood residents taken into consideration
  • Can be more than one use

School District: It is currently unclear whether school district will surplus building, or keep it and lease it or allow another group to use the building.

FOCS believes it is important for this group to meet and plan the process in the event the SD surpluses the building – so we will be ready with some alternative community uses.

Must be prepared to do a bunch of work and have the District do something else or nothing with the building – but it is a risk worth taking and the benefits of going through the process outweigh that possibility.

The Neighborhood Plan 1999 talked a little about the Columbia School site specifically:
1. concept of greening the west end of the site: a playground was built
2. housing on 37th street, the east end

It also provided more general concepts that should be taken into considersation, such as more housing off of the business district to support the businesses, as well as the need to support entrepreneurs and spur job creation.

II. DISCUSSION about alternative USES:

1. The Famer’s Market folks could not attend in person so Rebecca Cate of the FOCS read a memo with a message about their interest in the site. (see posted memo)

  • They are interested in any option for a permanent home including 37th, Hudson or Ferdinand Streets in addition to the Columbia School site.

2. Zion Prep Academy – Ven Lucas, Director

Serve low and moderate income folks
160 enrollment from 12 months through 8th grade – ½ enrollment is in prek and 1st grade – total enrollment is currently 340 with plans to expand to 400 students.
African American, Christian school – founder was a pastor who started 25 years ago
Some children from east side and Renton, mostly RV kids
View themselves as alternative to public school system for families who want a more focused private non-secular, non-profit education.
Tuition only covers 30% of operating costs.
Zion has been working with Fred Stevens at the school district

  • Motivation for Moving School: school has been operating within a financial deficit for last seven years, this makes sense to sell 6 acre parcel of land in a valuable location near light rail. Zion wants to sell property to fund endowment which will supplement operating budget. Developer Jim Meuller is interested in developing 6 acre site.
  • Community Outreach: Zion can be doing more such as reaching out to various organizations to see how they can partner. School for the Blind will provide tutoring with Zion. Have hired Christing King who is going to do development and business outreach.
  • Capacity Issues: The site does work well but will not allow them to expand significantly. Will move the small buildings that comprise the ‘village’ to the Columbia site.
  • Bldg is in use from 6 am to 6 pm during the school day. May be able to provide parking opportunities at night. Jim Meuller: historic preservation architect by training developing the current Zion site spoke about his interest in the project saying he did not yet have specific plans for the 6-acre site.
  • He would like to building on the back of the Columbia Building to make it more user friendly to make it a more community oriented site.

3. Sustainable Seattle: looking at the south end of the City – interested in farming and green space and as a way to build connection and community between people. Similar to Phinney non-profit, community meeting spaces, non profits…next meeting at Rainier Vista.

4. Other comments from individuals:

  • Light rail will have profound effect on value of property, must embrace community and family.
  • Given that Zion is farther down the road, we must avoid a community conflict.

II. How to Create a Community Vision:

Key principals have continued to bubble up:
1. civic engagement, to solicit all ideas and determine shared values
2. community should be defined as broadly as possible, not just neighbors but many people really care about the facility, business, alumni, light rail. Must define community as widely as possible
3. must determine community values for site, (family oriented, diverse)
4. must discuss financial viability of different options

The Planning Process
Key to this process will be reaching out to the various community organizations to ensure wide-spread engagement and involvement in the project from the very beginning.
The planning process will begin with a community outreach campaign and will be designed to foster and encourage the exchange of information and opinions. The process will be focused around a series of large community meetings over four to six months, such as the following.

Meeting #1: Presentation of site/building analysis and Columbia City Neighborhood plan. Discuss neighborhood’s values and goals for neighborhood and what role this site could play in the future of Columbia City.
Meeting #2: Neighbors work with designers to develop alternative site plans.
Meeting #3: Presentation about financial viability of different alternatives.
Meeting #4: Presentation about different alternatives’ strengths and weaknesses. Discussion about preferred alternatives and next steps.

Consensus that it is critical to talk with Cheryl Chow and the folks at the School District to get them engaged early in this process.

Need to be prepared to counter a possible deep pocket developer if property values rise because of light rail.

Must include outreach to City of Seattle, School District and Mayor’s office.

Fundraising: critical piece of planning process:

  • Dept. of Neighborhoods’ matching fund
  • Nonprofit design center
  • Private foundation
  • Volunteer time and expertise

Creation of a Steering Committee:

  • Will help identify and secure funding for process
  • Will establish relationships with key partners, city, district, mayor’s office, zion and other developers in Columbia City.
  • Will help manage public outreach
  • Will be liaison with professional groups brought into the planning process

DON Application: will submit first week of April

Key things to think about are volunteer and in-kind components of applications.

Professionals can donate up to $75 per hour for professional time toward the match which only needs to be $7500, or half of the cash grant amount.

Please send comments within the next week to ten.tsacmoc|etackr#ten.tsacmoc|etackr

Letters of commitment for matching funds should be mailed to Scott or email to ten.tsamoc|nakrab_ttocs#ten.tsamoc|nakrab_ttocs

April/May/June: Submit grant and look for additional funds
June: Activate Steering Committee

Communication: Use Online resources to keep people apprised of any developments before next meeting.

Suggestion to make report to SE District Council in the interim before the next FOCS meeting.

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