Tonight’s meeting of the Design Team for the Redevelopment of the Denny Middle School Site – whose efforts we’ve been chronicling since September – was a momentous one. What you see above is the “preferred plan” for the site, drawn after many meetings in which community members, school employees, district consultants debated what to do with the site, with just three main prerequisites: It needed to have a softball field and tennis courts, to replace the ones removed on the current Chief Sealth campus as it transforms into the joint campus of Sealth and the future Denny, plus it’s supposed to hold space open for a possible elementary school some years down the road – read on for more details on this plan, and what happens next:
Though work on the site, including demolition of the current Denny building, isn’t expected to start before spring 2011 – and that’s assuming Denny moves to its new site during winter break 2010-2011 – the district wanted a plan finalized early this year. And tonight’s meeting was the latest step in that direction.
The invitation months ago to join the design team was cast in many directions, but in the end, just a handful of community members, school employees and district consultants were consistent participants. Among them, local residents Susan McLain and Mary Quackenbush, and Chief Sealth athletic director Nels Enquist, along with district employees/consultants including BEX program manager Don Gillmore, Denny-Sealth project manager Robert Evans, and landscape architect Jonathan Worley.
Late last year, team members came up with three concepts for the site. After further refinement at a meeting last month (WSB coverage here), landscape architects put together the “preferred plan” shown tonight.
The rendering above is shown looking west – with 30th SW across the top, SW Thistle across the right side. The softball field would be on the southeast corner of the site, and six tennis courts along the northeast side, which slopes down toward Southwest Community Center. At top left – the site’s southwest section – a play area and mini “amphltheater,” with a picnic area. And the open area would be the possible future school site (the district has declined to elaborate on this, though at a very early meeting Gillmore said it might be built “after three closed”; the space to be left for it would accommodate buildings shaped like Brighton Elementary).
The proposed plan addresses several community concerns that were voiced even before the design team was formed, dating back to many discussions involving the Westwood Neighborhood Council (which had crafted its own vision for the site) — the plan includes pathways through the site, a tennis-court design with openings on the sides rather than continuous fences, and no plans for nighttime lighting beyond “safety” lights — the tennis courts and softball field will NOT be lit. Gillmore says they’re considering artificial turf for the softball infield, with natural grass for the rest of it, and they’re hopeful the field will have easier public access than the current Southwest Athletic Complex fields east of the community center, which is hard to navigate and has been a continuing sore spot for community members.
Though an official tree inventory has not yet been done, Worley says they have catalogued 14 trees on the site and hope to be able to preserve most if not all of them, depending on their condition and health.
Overall, McLain complimented designers on the proposed plan, saying it “really does move toward something of a park-like feel, but all these functional uses too … (it’s) a really great compromise, potentially, that … places people first.”
WHAT’S NEXT: Now that the plan has passed Design Team muster, “pricing” begins, which means cost estimates will be finalized. Gillmore says they have about $2.5 million to spend, not including hazmat work during the Denny demolition, so they need to make sure they have a plan that fits the budget. He also says this does not go to a full school board vote; it will be reviewed by the Oversight Committee in March or April, and then the Operations Committee has the final say; somewhere in that time, the Design Team is likely to have one more meeting to review the final-final version. Another date ahead: As mentioned here previously, a groundbreaking celebration for the next phase of construction work on the nearby Denny-Sealth site is scheduled for March 12; more information on that is here. (You can also watch this page on the project website for minutes and graphics from tonight’s meeting.)
All WSB coverage of the Denny-Sealth project is archived here, newest to oldest.