Denny Middle School site’s future: Design Team report

October 9, 2008 10:07 am
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 |   Denny-Sealth | West Seattle news | West Seattle schools | Westwood


That posterboard propped up at last night’s meeting of the Design Team for the Redevelopment of the Denny Middle School Site (yes, that’s its official name) spells out the school district’s baseline priorities for the 6-acre site (map) even before the Design Team process gets going in earnest: The softball and tennis facilities are replacements for what will be lost when the new Denny is built on the Chief Sealth campus; the “potential elementary school” is something that has recently emerged and is now being discussed more loudly — we first heard it from West Seattle school-board rep Steve Sundquist at Westwood Neighborhood Council meetings; earlier in the year, he mentioned the district might have to build another school on the site; then at Monday’s WNC meeting focused on the Denny site (WSB coverage here), he said it was likely to be an elementary-school site. Last night, Don Gillmore from the school district elaborated that a new elementary school might be built there with the closure of three (unspecified) others, and noted that the closed Hughes site also is a “prime candidate” for a future new elementary school. Way down the road but keep your ears up. Meantime, on to what happened last night and what happens next with the Denny site plan, plus an update on construction status at the Chief Sealth site, just ahead:

This meeting was meant to be a sort of “echo” of the Design Team’s first meeting last month; that one was held at 3 pm so that school staff and students could attend, this one at 7 pm with an eye toward community participation. The next two meetings are meant to work in the same fashion; we’ll post the dates and times at the end of this article.

First, an update on the Sealth/Denny work, from project manager Robert Evans:
*Bassetti Architects (which had a rep at last night’s meeting) is almost done “implementing changes” to the Chief Sealth renovations resulting from some money added back to the budget last year (school and community members were asked to help prioritize those potential changes; coverage here)
*The seismic retrofit and “initial building improvements” work at Sealth, including hazardous-materials removal, is 40 percent complete
*Grading work will begin “later this winter” along with “getting the pad ready” for the new Denny on the Sealth site
*The “first part” of the Denny construction will be put out to bid early next year, with work likely starting next summer
*The basic Sealth work should be done by the end of February, at which time the “tenant improvements” will begin
*The timetable for Sealth’s return to its permanent campus is still fall 2010, with Denny likely making its move in the middle of the subsequent school year

After that, the current Denny buildings will be demolished, and work will start on whatever is to replace them. Though that’s still more than two years away, the district wants to settle on a plan by the end of this year, according to the timetable presented last night, which culminates in final district approval at the 2/11/09 school-board meeting.

The softball and tennis facilities are not optional, Evans reiterated last night: “We’re obligated to demolish this (current Denny), build the softball and tennis replacements, and hope we have something left over” for anything more envisioned at the site.

What that is – the Design Team will work through. (The district presented what it called a “worst-case scenario” for a totally paved-over site during this meeting back in April.) Members include representatives from the district and its contractors, as well as from the neighborhood and the school community; at last night’s meeting, the former group was close to outnumbering the latter. Right now, the economic conditions are “pretty good” for projects, according to Gillmore, who says the current Sealth work has a bid that came in about half a million dollars under budget.

Much of last night’s meeting, held in the Denny library, involved a process to identify “stakeholders” in the site and what those stakeholders might want to see, then looking for common themes in those priority lists.

Cutting to the end result, the priorities, not necessarily in this order, and in addition to the “basic elements” (softball/tennis/future elementary) mentioned earlier, emerged as: Safety, restroom/water fountains, shared-use potential (park/school/community), “passive open (green) space,” traffic safety for access, bringing the project in on-time and on-budget, easy access to the site (compared to complaints about locked gates and obstructive fences at the nearby Southwest Athletic Complex), regulated lighting (to address neighbors’ worries about light pollution from tennis courts set up for night use), dog-friendly features, incorporating art, play equipment, amphitheater feature for a gathering spot, perhaps even a skatepark or skate feature.

That’s where the 2-hour meeting ended. By the way, just for comparison’s sake, here’s another look at a site vision the Westwood Neighborhood Council developed earlier in the year (click for a larger version):


Next steps in the Design Team process:

-The two sessions for the team’s next meeting are 3 pm 10/20 and 7 pm 11/3. After that, it’s one meeting for each step in the process – 7 pm 11/17, 7 pm 12/1, 7 pm 12/15, all public meetings and all scheduled at the Denny Library, with one digression: The group was invited to join a bus tour on Thursday 10/23, to visit some facilities around Seattle that might have elements to consider for incorporation into the Denny site plan. The itinerary’s not set yet, but suggestions so far included Lower Woodland Park (which has unique features including a bicycle-motocross track), Judkins Park (which includes a small amphitheater as well as a water-spray feature), Soundview Playfield, and Riverview Playfield in eastern West Seattle. If you are interested in participating in the tour and/or have a site to suggest touring, e-mail Evans:

It was noted last night that the Design Team does not have to settle on just one proposal, but can present up to three “project alternatives” to the school board. Once the Design Team process is past, the timeline on last night’s handout includes:
-School Board consideration on 1/21/09 and 2/11/09
-Schematic Design complete June 2009
-Next stage of design process with “detailed design drawings and bid documents” beginning that same month
-Construction beginning April 2011, with completion October 2011

The district’s website for the Denny/Sealth project overall can be found here, though its content still appears to be lagging a few months. All WSB Denny/Sealth coverage is archived here (reverse chronological order).

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