By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
More than three years ago, Admiral Church told community members that “big changes” were in its future.
Planning for those changes was subsequently shelved. But now it’s actively happening again, as the church has flatly declared that a “looming financial crisis” makes the status quo unsustainable.
So, church leaders told a community meeting this afternoon, they’re pursuing three potential paths for the future of the church (4320 SW Hill) and its 27,000-square-feet site:
*Redevelop the site and its 70-year-old building, which includes not only the sanctuary, but also a single-story west wing and basement that are used for various community purposes from support groups to a popular preschool
*Sell part of its property (official assessed value is $3.6 million) to generate cash to finance building improvements – which would be unavoidable, given the condition of the west part of the building, which has a sinking flat roof as it was originally expected to have at least one upper story added.
*Sell the entire property and find another site to buy or lease.
The Admiral Church congregation will make the decision soon – possibly as soon as a meeting on March 6th – and members of the church council are researching those three potential paths in the meantime. Those three members – Susan Oatis, Anita Shaffer, and Peggy Rich – joined pastor Rev. Andrew Conley-Holcom in facing a few dozen attendees this afternoon.
Most of the 45-minute meeting was spent on Q&A:
Could there be a fourth option, selling off part of the property AND redeveloping part of what the church would keep? The site isn’t as big as it looks, said Conley-Holcom, noting some might mistakenly assume the site includes the small city park that fronts California.
How is the site zoned? Lowrise 3, which means development up to 50′, though a new city law now allows faith-based organizations to build higher if affordable housing is included. In response to the next question, church leaders noted that they are not able to be housing administrators too, so if affordable housing were to be developed at the site, that would have to be done by an organization that’s experienced both in building it and running it. Whether the church could still own it under such an arrangement remains to be seen.
Could they go with the original idea from decades ago and just add a second story to the west side of the building? That wouldn’t solve all the issues, and might not be feasible given the building’s condition.
Could they get a reverse mortgage to draw money out of the property? The church-council members said they had already looked into various types of mortgage financing and deemed them infeasible.
Could the site be repatriated to the Duwamish Tribe? That was considered, said Conley-Holcom, but the tribe is busy with a site expansion close to its Longhouse, so it’s not looking for a remote site like this for administrative space, which was a previous idea.
How can the community help? Through relationships, replied the pastor. If the community values its relationship with the church and the services/resources it supports, demonstrate that. “If we’re going to stay here, we want to do it in relationship with the community. If we go, there will probably never be another church in this neighborhood, never be another community center,” so it’s up to neighbors to decide “whether what we’re doing is worthy.” For that work to continue, he reiterated, “we have to make a change in some way.”
What’s the deadline? Whatever path the church chooses, they have to be well into it by summer of next year. But as mentioned earlier, the decision itself will be made soon. If you have questions/ideas, the church’s contact info is on its website at admiralchurch.org.