Sunday, November 8, 2009

Area community center unlikely

The Central District News, a neighboring blog, reported last week that the Seattle School District had received four bids for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School site located at 3201 E. Republican Street. There are a couple of reasons why this story may be of interest to residents of Madison Park, even though the school, which closed in 2007, is a couple blocks south of our community.

For one thing, the Bush School, which is contiguous to the MLK School site, is apparently the top bidder for the property. Although the School’s main buildings are—like the MLK School—in Madison Valley, Bush’s Gracemont Upper Campus actually is located in Washington Park, so I think we can legitimately claim the Bush School as one of our own.

Another bid for the site has been submitted by a group of community activists, Citizens for a Community Center at MLK (CCC), which is the second reason the story could be interesting from the standpoint of Madison Park. Right now there is no community center located anywhere within the area, unless you want to count the Miller Community Center (330 19th Avenue E.) on Capitol Hill, or the Montlake Community Center (1618 E. Calhoun St.) as “within the area.” If the Madison Valley activists have their way, there would be a community center located practically on Madison Park’s doorstep.

However, it looks like it is just not meant to be. The CCC’s bid to purchase the site for $2,400,000 is 36% lower than the Bush School’s $3,750,000 bid. Two other bidders, Hamlin Robinson School (a non-profit private school for children with learning disabilities) and the First African Methodist Episcopal Church, each have lower bids than The Bush School. All of the bidders also provided the school district with proposals for renting the property, with The Bush School offering significantly more than any of the others.

The district, of course, is not obligated to take the highest bid; but given the Seattle Schools’ budget problems, the school board would certainly come in for some justified criticism if it didn’t take the money and run. Additionally, it is not clear that either the CCC or First AME actually have the cash in hand at this time to back up their bids. So it looks as if the idea of a community center for the area may just be one of those pipe dreams you hear about.


  1. Just because the Bush School's bid is 36% or, in dollar terms, $1,350,000 more than the CCC bid doesn't mean that the Seattle School District would accept it. Given the Seattle School District's struggles in addressing declining enrollment, increased revenue shortfalls and dealing with the obvious solution of selling valuable properties I wonder if they would take Bush's money or go the politically correct route and take less money to make the neighborhood feel good.

    The Bush School is a highly successful private school in Madison Valley where for years it has been looked upon as the "rich folk" hanging out in a poor neighborhood. Even with it's yearly outreach to the Martin Luther King Elementary school there has always been veiled resentment to Bush's presence. However, they must be doing something right with their increased enrollment and yearly improvement projects. Maybe the new members of the SSD Board can learn from them.

    It makes financial sense for the SSD to take Bush's money and for the CCC to take their money, resources, efforts and volunteers and translate it into a project at Washington Park. The current site is a civic, neighborhood and public embarrassment! With any improvements to the dusty, muddy, hard, dangerous dirt field on hold due the City's storm sewer project, plans should be made to demolish the abandoned brick building that is used only for it's dingy bathrooms and storing old equipment and re-site the field and replace it with a field-house/community center and new artificial turf field!

    Even Georgetown has a new field and look at the new field and Community Center that Miller has! CCC, please look at Washington Park and transfer your dreams there. You could partner with the Parks Department, the City and the neighborhood youth sports organizations and make it a total community project. Most people don't realize it but Washington Park is City owned property and not subject to the influences or wishes of the University of Washington and their enormous acreage called the Arboretum. And there's already plenty of parking!

  2. Although I was disappointed to hear that the community center plan will likely not go forward, I welcome the addition of a playfield to our neighborhood--IF it really will be available to the public (during daylight hours) as promised. However, I can't help wondering if the Seattle School District will regret selling this property, as the number of young families with children in Madison Valley has skyrocketed in the last decade. Heidi


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