Westside School to move into old Hughes School in Sunrise Heights

March 28, 2010 at 9:32 pm | In Sunrise Heights, West Seattle news, West Seattle schools | 17 Comments

Thanks to WSB Forums member “String Cheese” for the indirect tip on this, via what started as an inquiry about a “rumor.” Not a rumor, turns out: According to the website for local independent Westside School, it’s reached a deal to lease and move into the vacant Hughes School property in Sunrise Heights (map). Westside’s current campus is on Highline Public Schools-owned property on 28th SW, a few blocks south of the city/county border. Even before learning about this, we’d had an inquiry out to Seattle Public Schools to ask about future plans for Hughes – which is in its second school year of vacancy, after 2 years as temporary home to South Lake High School – and Genesee Hill, in its first school year of vacancy after Pathfinder K-8 moved to Cooper. Turns out the district had a request for proposals out earlier this year (all due March 3rd) for leasing not only Hughes and Genesee Hill, but also Fairmount Park, in its second year of vacancy. Both Westside and Seattle Public Schools are out for spring break this week, but we’ll be seeking to follow up with both, including finding out whether the district received lease proposals for the other two vacant schools. Meantime, the Westside website says they’re hoping to move into the new location this fall.

17 Comments

  1. Disappointing. Would much prefer to see this site used for a public purpose rather than a private school. I know the district needs money, but these were built as community spaces and should remain so.

    Was daydreaming about ground-floor retail here…

    Comment by Sage — 10:03 pm March 28, 2010 #

  2. I am glad this lovely old building will not remain vacant and suffer the vandalism and crime problems that GH and FP have. Does anyone know how long the lease is for? The RFP says 3-10 years.

    Comment by Ebaer — 10:49 pm March 28, 2010 #

  3. This building was built to be a school-public or private, education benefits us ALL and IS a community effort.

    Comment by SpeakLoud — 11:10 pm March 28, 2010 #

  4. The building is being used for a public purpose – revenue that benefits our existing schools. That’s far better than sitting vacant.

    Comment by Oliver — 9:20 am March 29, 2010 #

  5. School is community. As a member of the Westside community for many years, this will be a tremendous asset to our community, especially since the majority of the students are residents of West Seattle.

    Comment by david — 9:40 am March 29, 2010 #

  6. I was dreaming of a McMennimans type place…..

    Comment by JEM — 9:41 am March 29, 2010 #

  7. As a Westside parent, we are thrilled to be moving into the E C Hughes building! Westside has been a part of the community for almost 30 years and we are in need of more classrooms. The staff and families of Westside are very excited about the move and look forward to improving both the building and surrounding grounds. This is a good thing for West Seattle, the Seattle Public Schools and Westside.

    Comment by WS Neighbor — 11:28 am March 29, 2010 #

  8. Sage, you should know that Westside was the ONLY organization that seriously pursued the district on this building. The Westside community is very excited about the move and will take good care of the amazing space.

    Comment by jbar — 11:37 am March 29, 2010 #

  9. As a member of the Westside family, I couldn’t agree more that this is a great development for all involved. How would retail benefit the neighborhood more?

    Comment by Jon — 11:41 am March 29, 2010 #

  10. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aVHsEGqauWM
    I created a short video last year of the Mural that was painted on the E. C. Hughes playground walls before it had been painted over.

    Comment by Brian — 3:22 pm March 29, 2010 #

  11. Brian: Too bad the mural was painted over. Thanks for posting. I hope a new mural is painted. It’s exactly what the space needs.

    Comment by WS Neighbor — 4:02 pm March 29, 2010 #

  12. I am so glad to hear the school will be alive again. Both my brother & I went to school there in the 50s.

    It is a historic building that needs to have kids again in it.

    Comment by batgurrl — 8:08 pm March 29, 2010 #

  13. Hey batgurrl we maybe were classmates. And I agree with you, the school needs kids.

    Comment by dsa — 8:18 pm March 29, 2010 #

  14. Just to be clear, I don’t have any beef with Westside School and find it easy to believe that it’s a great institution and a credit to West Seattle. But I still don’t think it’s a good idea to turn over public property to private hands, even if market rent is being paid, even though the district needs money. The immediate area has very very few public spaces, no restuarants, only a shoebox of a coffee shop, and essentially nowhere to walk when the Marination Mobile truck isn’t holding court at 35th & Raymond. So it would have been nice to see Hughes turned into something of a shared community space.
    .
    If Westside School was the only potential lessor, that’s probably because of the way Seattle Public Schools is broken — there’s a weird timeline and no certainty to any future leasing of the space by any potential tenant, since the district wants the right to take it back eventually. In other words, you’d be crazy to put anything there *but* a school, since money spent on any reconfiguration could go down the drain. So the district set up a process where they were pretty certain to lease it a private school if anyone. And so they did.
    .
    No foul by Westside School, of course, but as a neighbor, I still say this is a disappointing process and a disappointing result.

    Comment by Sage — 6:42 am March 30, 2010 #

  15. Sage: First, Seattle Public Schools is not “turning over” this public property to private hands. A private school is *leasing* the building. Such an arrangement is by no means unheard of in Seattle or elsewhere. For instance, the former Sand Point naval base, which was deeded to Seattle Parks, is full of abandoned and decaying buildings that the City has no use for. But rather than let them continue their decline until they need to be razed, the City has been leasing them out to private institutions (the Mountaineers, for instance, now have their new clubhouse in the former motor pool building), not only to raise much needed funds, but also give these buildings a use so that they can continue to exist.

    Your statement about how Seattle Public Schools set up their RFP process to favor a private school is pure conjecture (or do you have proof that you can share with us?). Even so, besides a public elementary school, the next highest and best use of the EC Hughes elementary school building is a private elementary school. It would entail minimal renovation and alteration to the building, would preserve the use intended by its design, and will reinvigorate this vacant block and the neighborhood around it.

    To turn the building into a community space with (private) restaurants and (private) coffee shops (a la Wallingford Center), would have taken years to organize and fully lease out. With Westside School, they are leasing out the entire building in one fell swoop.

    Comment by nmb — 8:56 pm March 30, 2010 #

  16. Thank goodness the bldg will be used as a school and not turned into condos, mixed use retail or otherwise….it’s in a residential neighborhood….Now where will the Mars Hill church goers park??

    Comment by Marie — 9:31 pm March 30, 2010 #

  17. Sage,

    I wasn’t thinking you were criticizing Westside. You make a good point about problems with the school district. But my comment is more directed at the options available. I live on Gatewood hill, so I know the area very well and agree that it would be nice to see a bit more retail within walking distance. But all things considered, having that return to a school, especially a well-established one that needs the space, is also good for the neighborhood, and in my opinion, better than a retail operation or condos. I prefer that kind of shared space to parking lots and traffic, and this is definitely better than condos!

    Comment by Jon — 9:31 am March 31, 2010 #

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