‘Preferred schematic design’ debuts for future Genesee Hill school

A preferred “schematic design” was revealed last night for what is now going by the working title of the “new elementary school at Genesee Hill,” rather than “the new Schmitz Park Elementary at Genesee Hill,” according to project manager Janet Donelson.

The design was shown to about 20 community members in the Schmitz Park cafeteria, exactly three weeks before the February 12th election in which Seattle voters will decide whether to approve the Seattle Public Schools BEX (Building Excellence) IV levy that will generate the property-tax dollars for this $38 million project and others around the city.

As Donelson explained at the start of the meeting, the district provided some advance money to get the design work under way – since getting a new school open by fall 2015 would be impossible if they waited till after the election to start; a community advisory team has been working since last fall.

Ahead, four more views from last night’s presentation led by BLRB Architects, and what happens next:

While stressing that the design is “still really malleable” and in its “infancy,” the project team nonetheless also repeatedly stressed that this is the design concept with which the advisory committee had just decided to move forward. Note that these are not architecturally fleshed-out renderings, but rather deal with “massing” – size and shape – and placement of features on the site. Above, the green playfield would be where most of the current, to-be-demolished Genesee Hill Elementary is now, on the southwest side of the site. In the next view, with the north side of the site along SW Dakota in the foreground, the red structures are the main facilities, while the blue in the distance represents the classroom wing, with pods of 4 classrooms (“small learning communities”) clustered around potential shared-activity spaces for occasional team-teaching, and outdoor access that could facilitate outdoor learning. There also would be a flexible classroom with a movable wall that could be used to create smaller spaces. The east side of the building would “engage” with the hillside, with the inside hallways more like bridges over it.

The building will be built to accommodate about 650 students, with an alternate to downsize it to 500 students if the costs are “way over,” it was explained. A floor plan was shown too, with a “community living room” near the entrance on the north, with a stairway to the library on the 2nd level. A dance studio and instrumental music area would be nearby, and then, a bit further south, a student dining hall connecting to a gym. The center of that main building would include a “multi-use space” usable for math and science among other things.

Staff parking would be where the playfield is now, on the southeast side of the site, but set as far west into a slope as possible.

The dramatic grade change on the site – 35 feet from the current building down to that current field site – is one factor the project team says it’s been working with. The design principles were described as including “really fit(ting) into the challenging site” where Genesee Hill Elementary now sits, and being “timeless” as well as serving as a “community resource … not just a place of learning … to be a community center, to allow for community access onto the site, to use as a park, if you will,” plus “to be sustainable … good steward of taxpayer dollars and good steward of our environment.”

On the second floor, the library would be located in a way that would take advantage of the Mount Rainier and territorial views from that location.” Donelson said that the preferred scheme, even with some two-story buildings, would still allow nearby neighbors to maintain their views.

After discussing the details of the “preferred scheme,” there was some Q/A.

One attendee had high praise for the concept, saying she could see herself and her child “interacting with the building” and that it would be more pleasant not to see the parking lot in a prominent spot along SW Genesee. One neighbor said that while she would be losing a “park in (her) backyard” because of the parking lot replacing the current southeast playfield, keeping the trees was a positive move. (The parking lot will be pushed as far west into the hillside as possible, the architects later added.)

Another attendee wondered about the grade change from the driveway on the site that would go along most of 51st (the site’s west side) and then part of Dakota with entrance/exits on each of those streets. It would be one way from 51st northeast to Dakota. The 51st side would only be used at the start and end of the school day.

“Could it be a hardscape play surface during the day?” someone wondered. Maybe, was the reply.

WHAT’S NEXT: The project team and advisory committee will continue working with this design concept, warning that “we’ve got a long road ahead of us.” And more community meetings are ahead – including another one “within a month or two” that will flesh out the design with more architectural details. No date yet. “Please come and voice your opinions if you can,” those in attendance were exhorted. The timeline as currently envisioned calls for going out to bid in spring 2014, followed immediately by construction, which they hope would be done “by the end of 2015.” There is no website for the project yet.

(The Genesee-Schmitz Neighborhood Council also will continue focusing on the site’s current and future status and programs; its members and other neighbors have worked hard in the past few years to make sure the site has continued to play a role in the neighborhood, with community gardens on its west side, among other projects.)

37 Replies to "'Preferred schematic design' debuts for future Genesee Hill school"

  • Noelle January 23, 2013 (9:28 am)

    I’m so glad they stopped calling it “Schmitz Park at Genesee Hill.” That was absurd.

  • No on BEX January 23, 2013 (10:25 am)

    But it’s a no go if BEX doesn’t pass right? If that’s the case then they need to stop wasting time and money planning so many things until they know they’ll actually have the money.

  • melissa evans January 23, 2013 (10:52 am)

    I am very happy with the direction the scheme has taken. I too am glad the grass field is prominent to the genesee/51st corner. It will be a sunnier site then the lower field and more directly linked to the school too. Placing the parking at the lower elevation makes sense. Now we all need to work to make sure the levy passes.

  • Dale January 23, 2013 (11:28 am)

    What happens to the old site? I know the Schmitz family had some concerns. Have they been resolved or addressed? I like the design.

    • WSB January 23, 2013 (11:35 am)

      No, they have not. The district has many things left to decide – the old school’s fate, whether Fairmount Park will be a neighborhood school, etc. … TR

  • vote yes on BEX January 23, 2013 (12:10 pm)

    We will not have enough seats for children if BEX doesn’t pass, it truly is that simple.

    There will have to be decisions made about what communities will be in the Genesee site, Schmitz Park, and Fairmount Park, but the bottom line is that we ABSOLUTELY need the seats that this new school will bring. The planning is not a waste of money, because we need those seats as soon as possible. If the levy doesn’t pass this time, don’t you think they’ll try again next year? Now that would be a waste of time and money!


  • Mike January 23, 2013 (12:17 pm)

    Anyone think they’ll turn Schmitz into STEM @ Schmitz? At least then they’d keep the #1 math program in the district as part of STEM.

  • Wess Cider January 23, 2013 (12:24 pm)

    I like what I see so far. I am happy to see the building pushed away from busy Genesee and more towards Dakota.

    Honestly, I think the majority of the dated and even rundown/unsafe elementary schools in West Seattle could desperately use an overhaul. I know Arbor Heights is in the queue for a new building, but even as a Schmitz Park parent, I think they should have been 1st considering the state of their facility (rodents, leaky roofs, unworkable plumbing, air quality – mold, etc, etc).

    I am not one to tell people what to do with their $, but wouldn’t it be awesome if some of the area zillionaires put $$$ into schools like they do sports stadiums and arenas. I suppose schools don’t return profit in the same way.

  • Bonnie January 23, 2013 (1:27 pm)

    Please vote yes for the BEX. Those who vote no are saying that money is more important than children. I would hate to think people care more about their wallets than children.

  • WSratsinacage January 23, 2013 (1:36 pm)

    Amen Wess!

  • Holly McCracken January 23, 2013 (2:03 pm)

    This “preferred” option was not presented a mere few weeks ago with the other three options. Is the comment period still open? As a neighbor on 49th Ave SW, it is concerning that cars and buildings will be at our property edges and that the impervious area is increasing drastically.

    Will the designers consider permeable pavement to meet the green stormwater infrastructure requirement?

  • Jeff January 23, 2013 (2:18 pm)

    Would be nice to see covered bike parking somewhere. 48th is planned to be a Neighborhood Greenway, and Dakota is the least steep street to climb up to get to the school.

    Having a covered bike parking facility on the north side of the school (where the visitor’s parking area is) would keep bikes away from motorized vehicle traffic. Bus loading zone and parent drop-off shows on the west side (along 51st), so bike parking accessible from Dakota would probably be less stressful for everyone.

  • No idea January 23, 2013 (2:29 pm)

    @Mike, if I had to guess at this point I would say that they’re going to to stick AH at Boren next year co-housed with STEM and then try to rebuild AH in 2016, and make STEM a program at the new AH building.

    • WSB January 23, 2013 (2:47 pm)

      To support one of “No idea’s” guesses – When work ongoing at Boren was mentioned at the STEM PTA meeting recently, Arbor Heights was mentioned as one reason. And the other night at the WSHS PTSA meeting, Marty McLaren mentioned a new proposal to get bridge funding to move up AH two years.

  • Nick January 23, 2013 (5:07 pm)

    Please keep the Schmitz Park name off this new school. Schmitz Park Emlementary is right where it should be, next to Schmitz Park.

  • Buddy January 23, 2013 (5:21 pm)

    Someone honestly signed in as “No on BEX”… that is amazing. Greedy/selfish person? Say no to anything that costs $ and doesnt directly benefit you type? Home schooler? Hillbilly? Explain yourself…

  • Raincity January 23, 2013 (5:24 pm)

    I would like to comment that this is really NOT a schematic design. It’s a program concept study to test different ways the site might be used, how circulation might happen. It’s very preliminary and the graphics shown do not yet reflect the comments/concerns brought up in the design work session yesterday. Due to the complexity of grading and site access a general direction was selected for moving ahead if the levy passes.

    • WSB January 23, 2013 (5:48 pm)

      RC, thanks – I’ve seen many different types of schematic designs while covering all manner of transportation, development, etc. projects, but that was how this was described multiple times by those leading last night’s meeting, which is the only reason I used it – TR

  • NeighborMom January 23, 2013 (5:40 pm)

    Thank you, Tracy, for your excellent coverage. I read every word of every school-related article on the blog — so keep ’em coming!

    As for Schmitz, I visited the school today for a kindergarten tour and was both excited and shocked. Excited by the level of teaching and engagement I saw, and shocked by the sight of SO MANY portables. Imagine what will be possible with a new school, where teachers have more space to collaborate and the kids can be located with their peers.

    I can’t wait to see it happen, and I hope anyone who is considering voting no will take a closer look at what our community has to gain. So very, very much…

  • Yes for Schools January 23, 2013 (6:33 pm)

    Looks like a great plan. I will vote YES.

  • Leslie January 23, 2013 (7:48 pm)

    Questions –

    Ddo we need to spend this much money reconfiguring the site? What is wrong w/ building on the top shelf and leaving the much needed green space below – bridges? Seems as though the footprint is large enough up top w/ out taking a 1/6 th for a Drive-through . At first glance, gives credence to “architects run amuck”‘ increased costs, and failures of SPS failures to manage taxpayers’ money wisely….

    Why does every school in this city have to be unique or a palace when there is so much need and maintenance of what we do have is decades behind? There are best practices published. Use them. Do like the Coast Guard did for lighthouses – plan A, B, and C and for uniqueness – paint, exterior treatment and landscaping and STOP reinventing the wheel – see Garfield, Southshore K- 8 for great examples of funds mismanaged?

    SPS would do well to contract to the City for capital projects. I will vote for BEX I’VE but SPS continues to erode my trust – would much prefer the funds and talent spent in the CLASSROOM – NOT to the administrative juggernaut admin at the John Stanford Center.

  • wetone January 23, 2013 (7:52 pm)

    Hey buddy, not nice talking, just because someone has their own opinion and you make those type of comments ? Hope your not a teacher, if so get some help. Might not vote for this myself if I don’t like the way they (Seattle Public Schools) are going to spend the money. They build a good useful product and not wasteful as they have so many times they get my vote. I like what I see here. But with the elevations of the property and having to be ADA compliant it is going to be costly.

  • Buddy January 23, 2013 (8:36 pm)

    Not a teacher… but I am very supportive of investing in the resources that they need. I’m also a proponent of investing in the community… and Im tired of hearing people grip about paying for things.

  • No on BEX January 23, 2013 (8:44 pm)

    Give me a break BUDDY. I dont need to explain myself. Btw, someone is signed in as yes on BEX but no comment on that one, right? Yes, I am a parent of a child in SPS and hate it. No, not a homeschooler or hillbilly as you referred to me. I will vote no and continue to tell everyone I know to do the same. SPSD has mismanaged money over and over. I am not about to vote to give them more. I don’t trust a thing they say.

  • Curious January 23, 2013 (9:16 pm)

    No on BEX – just curious what school your child attends. Are you aware of the necessity of these funds? How would you vote if your child was an Arbor Heights student? Sure, there has been mismanagement of funds in the past but why give up the hope? Instead of voting no out of spite, why not champion change? Because Voting no is an automatic fail. Voting yes for the levy is not a perfect solution but it is the one with potential.

  • Holly McCracken January 23, 2013 (9:27 pm)

    I am an adjacent property owner, and am disappointed that the preferred option was not presented two weeks ago at a community meeting. We got a last minute notice that the roll-out would be last night. I will work through all avenues to provide more comments.

    Adding an active parking lot and paving over a field to put a new field in a place where there’s already parking is counter-intuitive. Further, the lower area is a bowl and will channel the fumes and noise into our homes. And how tall will the satellite buildings be? Will they be looking into our living rooms?

    Further, it looks like putting a new field on the SW corner would not allow for the community use that we all love. Would there really be enough space or welcome to throw a frisbee or walk a dog?

  • Theresa January 23, 2013 (9:37 pm)

    I’m glad to hear these are only preliminary plans. I hope that safe routes for student and staff who will be riding their bikes and walking are considered a very important part of the final plans. I wished they would have been included in the beginning so we can make sure we get it right the first time so we won’t have to go back after everything is built to made revisions. We need to make sure to welcome and accommodate all modes of transportation. And make sure there are covered racks for bicycles. Our kids need to be encouraged to ride bikes and walk to school.

  • Happiness January 23, 2013 (10:22 pm)

    Interesting that the proposed new building is situated such that it appears that it could be built while leaving most of the old building in place. Is there any chance that this is an intentional feature of the design? So the old classrooms could be used for a couple years, if necessary, to alleviate crowding while other schools are being built?

  • kc on the hill January 23, 2013 (10:45 pm)

    Why on earth would they not re develop the Schmitz park site. with a level site and acerage being of relative the same. Construction cost would have to be lower. Years ago when the Schimtz family GAVE the property to the city or school district to be used as a school out of need for more school space, this does notappear to be a proper Thank You Here we are 50 years telling that same very supportive family “thanks but no thanks” Who on earth is running things at SPS. Seemsthe just want to build new instead of maintain. Lack of maintenace will lead to replacement. If I am not mistaken if the Schmitz park is not used as a school the property could revert backto the family???

  • Melissa Westbrook January 24, 2013 (8:49 am)

    Why does every school in this city have to be unique or a palace when there is so much need and maintenance of what we do have is decades behind?


    This looks like it is way over-designed. I cannot believe it has two “bridges” and irregular buildings. We cannot keep building specialty buildings. In fact the BEX Oversight Committee was going to find three elementary blueprints to be used for the district to keep those costs down.

    As someone who knows capital issues in this district, I am very disappointed.

    KC on the Hill, I have never quite heard the answer as to why Schmitz Park is moving. Is their site too small to build bigger?

  • Wessyde January 24, 2013 (3:01 pm)

    I’m right across the street from the school, and I love the this design. I love the reconfigure, the field should be in the sunniest spot available. Hopefully it can be configured for sports. North West Seattle could use another good turf baseball and soccer field!

    Love the drop off point on 51st (off the main drag of Genessee). I prefer this design over any that I’ve seen to date.

    Spend the money on the kids, we are excited about this new school even though our kid is too old to go there now.

  • wessyde January 24, 2013 (3:38 pm)

    Build it as shown! I’m voting for it. Can’t believe all these people who are whining about a nickle. My own kid is too old to go to it, but I’m for it. Spend the money on the kids.

  • george January 24, 2013 (4:55 pm)

    Yes, we have children in the affected over crowded school. Yes, voting NO on this levy. This District has shown no regard for its revenue sources in the past, why would that change now? Show me something first, then I might agree. Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me 10,000 times…
    Maybe if/when SPS cuts the hand off that feeds them, they will come to their senses when it comes to developing these programs, changes, and issues. Maybe it will make them work a little harder and smarter. If you keep feeding the beast, how will change ever evolve?
    NO on BEX. And don’t give me the “What about the children” guilt trip. We nurture our kids at home and volunteer at the school. Get involved if you want to invoke change, its not just about the pocket book.

  • David January 24, 2013 (5:44 pm)

    I am a parent of a child attending Schmidt Park and know first hand of the problems we face with the amount of kids now in grades 1-5. However, what will happen when all these kids try to attend W.S. High?

  • Kerrie S. January 25, 2013 (8:26 am)

    I am an SPS parent (sophomore at WSHS). Regarding the school levies, please be sure you know that there are two different ones, both important:

    Prop. 1 is an operations and maintenance levy that provides 25% of the district’s budget for operations and maintenance. If that levy fails, it will directly and strongly affect all of the kids currently enrolled in Seattle Public Schools–and cause the district’s maintenance issues to get even worse. It is not benign neglect that causes the maintenance issues, it is a lack of money.

    As tempting as it is to punish the district for mismanagement of a very small fraction of its overall budget, I encourage folks to support the kids in their day-to-day schooling and to express your displeasure over fund mismanagement by other means (letters to the superintendent and school board).

    Prop. 2 is the capital levy that would fund the new building at Genesee Hill and many other projects including seismic improvements at certain schools. Voters have approved three similar levies over the past 15 years, and the district has a very good record of bringing these projects in on time and on budget.

    For more info:

    By the way, the district is not allowed by law to do anything more than state the facts–no persuasive arguments allowed. The group that pushes for levy approval is SchoolsFirst:

  • ejbell January 25, 2013 (11:10 am)

    I’d like to raise a few questions to the design team: how will the toxic runoff from the parking lot and the increased run off from the roof tops be handled? Is there a plan for a large French drain or something that will gather the water, filter it and channel it at the east side of the built up area?
    what plan is there for maintaining darkness after 9 or 10 at night so the street of houses whose back yards face the school will continue to enjoy the natural environment?
    What plan is in place for mitigating the noise rising from this natural amphitheater into the neighboring gardens?
    Has extensive investigation taken place to assure the stability of the sloping gardens facing the school?

    I live one block south of Genesee on 51st SW, so I will not be personally effected by this new construction and design. It does seem to me like an invasion of neighborhood serenity to move the current parking and lighted area on the corner of 51st and Dakota where there is little impact on homes and gardens. Please do not overlook these important aspects of environmental desgradation as you consider this design. Betsy Bell

  • diane January 26, 2013 (1:58 pm)

    I love vintage and modern architecture and the new design for Genesee looks great!I have a child at Alki and the capacity at 400 is plenty. I do not like the idea of 600+ student elementary schools. We need the Schmitz, Genesee and Arbor Heights sites rebuilt and Fairmont for the increased enrollment we are seeing here in Weast Seattle and another JR High and high school option would be welcomed as well. Yes on the Levy always!

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