Friends of Columbia School
October 11, 2009 meeting minutes
Approximately 20 people gathered to plan a “charrette”, or community visioning session, for Columbia School.
What is a charrette?
People gathering together to solve a problem in a short period of time. It doesn’t mean the outcome is what we’ll do, but provides an opportunity to produce a plan for a vision. Like a brainstorming session.
Why are we doing one?
To come away with a community vision of what we’d like to see at Columbia School.
Background of FoCS
Information on Friends of Columbia School was posted on the Wiki in April, 2009: http://columbiacitizens.net/focs:welcome
Introductions and general comments
Alex shares office with GGLO, architects working with Harbor Properties on St. Gobain site. He will see if they have someone who’d be willing to volunteer to facilitate a brainstorming meeting.
Zion Prep – finishing negotiations with buyer for current property. There will be retail and housing on current site. Information on their move to a new site will come into clearer picture in next 30 to 60 days. They are still interested in Columbia School, and have done preliminary walk-throughs and sketches. Next step would be to work with the school district to buy the school and fix it up, and they’re saving the funds to do that. Doug indicated that the Farmers Market would have a home there is they were to take ownership of the site. [Not mentioned at the meeting, but also of note is that Arts in Motion, a community arts school, is currently housed at Zion Prep and would presumable move with them wherever they go. – jlk]
There was agreement to move forward with this planning and visioning process despite so much uncertainty with the school district. Having a community vision is a good thing to have, regardless of what happens to the school property. What can we dream for our community?
Overview of the visioning process
While we agreed to let a facilitator set their own agenda based on our desired outcomes, we came up with the following suggestion of how the brainstorming session might look (process would take approximately 4 hours):
- Intro and background / review parameters
- Identity themes to explore (see list below)
- Breakouts into themes – people would gravitate towards the theme they care the most about
- Smaller groups report back to big group with flushed-out information about each theme
- Host an open house at the end for those who couldn’t come for the full time
What parameters do we want to set for the visioning session?
We came up with a list of factors to act as guiding principles for how we frame the conversation:
- Re-use existing historic building, and make use of the whole site
- Acknowledge property’s proximity to existing park
- School is public land and should be for public use and common good
- Fit into current network of existing community centers nearby
- Transit-oriented area – proximity to light rail
- Acknowledge the uncertainty of SPD decision
- Keep property as active as possible – draw people to the neighborhood
- Contributes to the overall sustainability of the community
- Facilitate uses that are not market-competitive but that community wants
- Be financially viable
- Preserve green space and existing gardens on site
The following themes emerged as “umbrella” topics for the break-out sessions:
- Lifelong learning
- Kids / investing in young people
- Open another public school
- Food, farmers market, garden / local food / urban agriculture
- Home sustainability, energy center / green building, green energy
- Transportation / alternative transportation
- Urban village: pedestrian-oriented development
- Micro business/neighborhood business, fostering
- Shared services (tool library, comm’ty kitchen, etc.)
Current zoning of site is L1 which allows for 3-stories, typically developed into townhomes in groups of 4 or 6. It’s not zoned for commercial. If the school district decides to sell the property, a School Use Advisory Committee (SUAC) would be formed and the City would consult the neighborhood as to future use of the school. The SUAC process can open the door for development beyond the current zoning.
This visioning process will be about what we can dream of in an ideal situation, assuming the property will eventually be available for purchase or long-term lease. A subcommittee could be formed to approach the district with short-term leasing options.
Examples of other programs that live in former schools:
- Phinney Neighborhood Tool library
- Phinney Neighobrhood Center
- Community kitchen at TT Minor
- University Heights
- Youngstown Cultural Arts Center
- NW African American Museum / Condos
- El Centro de la Raza
Existing community centers/resources in the area:
- NW Federation of Community Organizing Center
- Rainier Valley Cultural Center (owned by SEED)
- Boys and Girls Club
- Rainier Community Center
- Arts In Motion
- Rainier Valley Historical Society
- Healthy & Active Rainier Valley
Determine location: at CC School? South Side Church of Christ? Whitworth? Zion Prep? Need space for break-out groups. [Mikala also suggested the Royal Esquire Club.]
A Sunday (or Saturday) in November for 4hours: either 2-6pm or 1-5pm
11/8, 8/15, 8/22 – preference for the 8th (will depend on when facilitator is available)
- Alex to ask GGLO for volunteer facilitator
- Logistics – Kristin and Sue agreed to coordinate these and would like a 4th person to help with this. Any takers?
- Snacks – Need volunteer to ask local businesses for donations of food & drink
- Supplies: pens, paper, large sheets for theme notes, tape
- Signs for day-of
- Meet with facilitator to set agenda
- Mikala to write copy, Joanne will lay out – try to pull together within a week
- Include RSVP [moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC#moc.liamg|sdneirFloohcSaibmuloC] has been created and I can forward messages to anyone who’d like to get them]
- Need volunteers to distribute to houses within a certain radius of the school
- Try to send sample of recent 12th Avenue Streetcar flyer