WEST SEATTLE SCHOOLS: Sneak peek at early design concepts for Alki Elementary rebuild

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Early design concepts for “the new Alki” (Elementary) made their public debut at an online community meeting last night.

The school is being rebuilt with $67 million from the 2019 BEX V levy; the existing gymnasium and adjacent community center will remain. Construction is expected to start in about a year and will last two years.

The meeting began with greetings from Seattle Public Schools‘ project manager Brian Fabella, a West Seattle resident, and Mason Skeffington, Alki Elementary’s principal, who acknowledged the School Design Advisory Team‘s work in the planning process over recent months. Architects from Mahlum also were there, as was a rep from Cornerstone General Contractors, the Bothell-based firm that will build the school.

Mahlum’s Becky Hutchinson said Alki has just over 300 students currently. Construction is expected to begin in summer 2023; Alki will relocate to the former Schmitz Park Elementary building until the new school opens in fall 2025. Here’s the timeline:

More than 100 businesses and 100 craftspeople will be needed for the construction, and bidding will go out in March 2023, said Bryan Gormley of Cornerstone.

Lead architect Laura Poulin of Mahlum took over from there. She shared some of the school’s history, including the original 1913 building, which has long since been demolished. This project will demolish the school but not its gym, nor the adjacent city-operated community center.

They’re doubling the school’s square feet to 82,000, so that it can hold more than 500 students, preschool through 5th grade, whereas currently it holds 45,000 sf and just over 300 students.

The new building will be three stories (plus a penthouse) to accommodate that much room.

They hope to create a “front porch” for the school (see the image atop this report) and relocate its front door to what they’re calling the “parks boulevard” along the north side of the school, facing Alki Playfield. It will incorporate outdoor learning space. Bus and parent dropoff would remain where it is now. There will be no on-site parking – the current space used for that along 59th SW will be part of the “boulevard” space. Hutchinson showed a list of other SPS schools that offer little or no off-street parking (none were in West Seattle, though). A “traffic management plan” will be developed closer to when the new school opens.

Stacey Crumbaker talked about who’s been involved so far and how equity will be addressed, the message the building is intended to send. Students as well as staff and families have been involved. (You can see extensive information about that in the full slide deck from the meeting, which you can see here.)

What will Alki Elementary look and feel like? Crumbaker said they aspire to retain the feeling of a community “where everybody knows everybody.” She showed the entry concept:

The classroom concept:

And she reiterated that the building will now face and embrace the park, rather than the street. A big atrium-style commons space will give everyone a view into what’s going on above them:

There’s also a vision for features to teach the area’s history – including Alki as a place where colonizers arrived. (They’re talking to the Duwamish Tribe about this, Crumbaugh said.)

Materials will reflect the natural environment – rocks, water,, beach, trees.

So what’s next? The land-use process begins this fall, including requests for zoning exceptions (“departures”).

In Q&A, nearby residents asked for more information, including access to design documents. There was a question about security; Fabella replied, “Regarding security, there will be a new secure entry vestibule. There will be also increased staff/admin visibility of the entrance.” Asked about the old gym as a holdover, Crumbaker noted that it will be brought up to current codes, including “new finishes so this space feels like an integrated part of the school when it opens.” It’ll be linked to an all-electric building by the construction. What about the basketball courts north of the school? SPS is talking with Parks about possible updates. ReThe parking between the end of the Schmitz Park trail and the community center will remain. Vehicle access to the space on the north side of the school is still being discussed.

A neighbor worried that elimination of the existing parking area on the northwest side (slide above) will further stress street parking in the nearby neighborhoods, especially when there’s a school event: “Eliminating 20 or 30 parking spots is going to have a pretty huge impact.” The project team acknowledged that as an “operational challenge.”

That’s where the meeting wrapped up. A recording of the meeting will be posted on the district webpage for the project, which is where you can find other info and updates.

30 Replies to "WEST SEATTLE SCHOOLS: Sneak peek at early design concepts for Alki Elementary rebuild"

  • Past Alki parent June 15, 2022 (12:40 pm)

    The disconnect between the designer’s vision and the city’s reality is severe.  The image at the top of the article shows the same concrete patch as the photo at the bottom.  It can’t both be a welcoming “porch to park” and a parking lot at the same time.  If the community center’s parking lot is eliminated, where will center user’s park?  And if there will be no future community center programs, why retain the dumpy community center when before and after school care can be housed in the school?  Please resolve the shared use issues during design.

    • JJ June 15, 2022 (6:58 pm)

      No one is allowed to park there during school hours. It’s not an issue.

  • concerned Alki neighbor June 15, 2022 (12:48 pm)

    I don’t understand how they can propose a project like this and eliminate the existing (limited) off street parking.  The street parking in this area, near Alki, is stress/overloaded as is.  They want to build a new and larger school with more students, and not provide any onsite parking?  The design looks nice and it will be good to update this old building but the lack of off street parking seems like a terrible idea.

    • Say What June 22, 2022 (12:42 pm)

      Alki staff members are extremely concerned about the lack of parking. Contact SPS and the city to complain. It’s not a done deal yet. The city not the district owns the parking lot where the portables are located and playground, so there are limits on the design of that area. 

  • Steve June 15, 2022 (1:23 pm)

    We are local residents on one of the surrounding streets, and even now, morning/afternoon drop-offs and pickups are a colossal mess. Parents regularly block driveways and streets (especially at intersections) and kids often cross blindly into the street especially on the cramped eastern side of the community center.

    The new school is going to support 2/3 more capacity and  they are eliminating the little existing parking? It’s not going to work. “Traffic management” is simply not going to cut it on the local streets surrounding the school. They’re going to have to do something else — a better parent/vehicle staging area on the grounds, maybe even takeover part of the playfield for traffic staging.  

  • R June 15, 2022 (1:56 pm)

    Is the existing playground preserved in this design? I think it might be but I have a hard time seeing it on the aerial view.

    • WSB June 15, 2022 (3:02 pm)

      Yes. That is a Seattle Parks facility.

  • CarDriver June 15, 2022 (1:59 pm)

    As a nearby resident have to 2nd the traffic/parking issue. Commenters on the blog-you know who you are who think nobody drives conveniently never come around schools at start/complete times to see all the kids being driven to school. As Concerned Alki Neighbor and Steve have pointed out parking WILL be an issue. I’m betting ALL the teachers drive to work and any after school/weekend participant will drive. Sorry pretend car haters- 99.9% will drive.

    • Steve June 15, 2022 (3:33 pm)

      Especially since they are expanding capacity. More cars from points farther from Alki Elementary.

      • Alki Neighbor June 17, 2022 (1:28 pm)

        And it appears that the teacher parking in the back will also be eliminated. Where will those 65+ staff members park? Currently, I think the back parking lot holds about 20 cars. That may not seem like much, but can be a big impact on a daily basis to the neighborhood parking nightmare.

  • SLJ June 15, 2022 (2:04 pm)

    No parking is crazy. There is such limited parking as it is. Parents will be parking blocks away which increases the danger for little kids. The streets are so tight in the area that it can be hard to see people crossing until you’re right at the corner. Plus where will staff park? And is the current playground staying where it is?

  • Buddy June 15, 2022 (3:35 pm)

    Oh, I know due to all the bike to work or ride the bus to work the City of Seattle is thinking that teachers now want to bike to work or ride the bus to work. Hahah  which will be totally impractical since I don’t know many teachers who can afford paying rent in Seattle or buying a house in the Seattle area now due to the high cost of rent and mortgages.

  • Joshua's Mom June 15, 2022 (5:00 pm)

    #1 – I don’t think the design team understands the reality of the streets around Alki Elementary; the entire design team needs to come to Alki and witness in person the predicament that exists even when school is not in session and then all of them return at start time one day in September and see for themselves.#2 – if the School District thinks they can eliminate staff parking and the staff will be riding the bus to Alki they need to get Metro on board NOW because bus service to Alki is a nightmare!

  • Alki RESIDENT June 15, 2022 (6:55 pm)

    I will reiterate the parking disaster and traffic flow issues on this already too narrow street as a resident of Alki and teacher (not at Alki) concerned about everybody’s welfare in terms of walking, driving and living. Gorgeous building, great ideas, ridiculous concept for no parking!  If they’re going to spend all this money and build, why in the world wouldn’t they propose possible underground parking?!!!! That solves so many issues— though I know permitting and land use and all of that would likely be a major issue, and I can only imagine how much it would cost for underground parking, but something’s got to give here! Maybe a ramp like at the Safeway for above ground parking instead of some penthouse?!!

  • Chris K June 15, 2022 (7:15 pm)

    How far away from school do these students live that they are unable to walk? 

    • WSB June 15, 2022 (7:50 pm)

      The attendance area goes as far as the east side of Duwamish Head and pretty far south along Beach Drive. Map:
      https://www.seattleschools.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/SPSD_B_AAES_2021.pdf

      • Historic Seattle June 16, 2022 (7:01 am)

        That is interesting that they may does not designate Fairmont park as a highly capable cohort school

      • Chris K June 16, 2022 (8:39 am)

        Thanks, WSB.  I would hope this would help encourage more kids to walk and bike to school, or at least have some creative solutions such as car-pooling or van-pooling to decrease the crazy number of single-kid cars that congregate in this already congested area.

  • Another nearby resident June 15, 2022 (8:32 pm)

    As another very close by neighbor to the school, I’m also appalled at the removal of parking! 😩 I encourage all who have commented here to find and engage whatever opportunities remain to offer this important feedback. Drop-off and pick-up are currently a nightmare for nearby residents and I often worry about my own safety walking around at that time (stressed parents driving fast around blind corners). These are narrow streets with very little parking to begin with. I hope these early designs can evolve into more realistic options for this dense neighborhood 

    • One street over June 17, 2022 (1:22 pm)

      Yep, I live on 60th and have nearly been hit by speeding, unobservant parents during the morning drop off more times than I can count. I would love to see this traffic management plan as soon as possible, because it’s currently a disaster and doubling capacity without fixing that will just make it worse.

  • wsres June 15, 2022 (10:56 pm)

    The Atrium looks nice, but it seems like a big waste of space. And I reiterate what everyone else is saying: more students and less parking is asking for a mess.

  • Alki parent June 16, 2022 (9:15 am)

    The City and County are responsible for the traffic situation – not SPS.    Two things they can do: Increase Metro bus service to/from that area.  There is a dead spot in that area.  So if you are a parent trying to get back from downtown to meet your kid after school you have to drive.Create sidewalks or safe walking situations next to Schmitz park, East of the Community center.  This is the “other” drop off site.   Because there are no sidewalks, the street leading towards the community center is dangerous. 

    • Rocket June 17, 2022 (11:02 am)

      It was crazy when we lived in the neighborhood and our daughter got to go to the few in person days of kindergarten allowed to her last year how many people would drive.  Our neighbor the floor down would drive and we lived 3 blocks from the school.they should close this school and redistribute the kids to the other 2 schools nearby. Enrollment is down every year.  There is a bus stop on admiral abutting the school btw.

  • Shufflerunner June 16, 2022 (9:51 am)

    First, I just want to point out how beautiful and inviting the new space looks. I’m a big fan of the use of cross laminated timber. Second, I drop my kids off at school there almost every day and have maybe had an issue finding parking once. If you go down midday during the school year maybe a quarter of the available street parking is used. It’s not going to be Armageddon.  

  • JIMBY June 16, 2022 (10:34 am)

    It is remarkable that nearly all posts are from hyper local neighbors opposed to positive change for the good of the community.  That is NIMBYISM. The fact that so many people drive their kid (alone) to school  and few kids walk or bike combined with the entitlement of neighbors who expect ‘their’ street parking in front of their house has created the habits that need to be changed. The large attendance area only applies to a minority  of students who should band to gather for carpooling like in the old days when we walked from Fauntleroy to Denny and Sealth and carpooled in downpours.And, again to point out that all parking congestion can be controlled/eliminated by simply monetizing all on street parking.  This would address all of the complaints being expressed here.

  • Reed June 17, 2022 (7:13 am)

    No matter which side of this argument you fall on, the problem is the same: too many cars!

  • Rocket June 17, 2022 (10:58 am)

    Where are they going to get kids to fill this school?  The neighborhood has priced out most families with children, just this year their enrollment was so low they eliminated a kindergarten class and converted one of each of the 1st and 2nd grade classes to a combined room.Why nearly double a school in a dying service area?  Why even rebuild it at all?  Why not build a community center or (laughable I know especially in a neighborhood rotten with NIMBYs) affordable housing and send what few children remain up the street to Lafayette and genesis hill?

  • morealex June 17, 2022 (8:36 pm)

    Hard to envision what the no parking situation will really be like in practice.  The school calls you mid-morning, your child is ill, you have to come pick them up.  Will you have to double park?  I imagine there’ll be some place where school buses pick up and drop off kids, and mid morning that space would be available for a quick drop off or pick up?  But without any parking, as a staff person or teacher, I think I’d be pretty p.o’d and incredulous.  Good luck to all.

  • James June 18, 2022 (7:09 pm)

    Agree with WSRES about the need for a “Atrium”…just an unrealistic architects dream of a pretty but non functional building.  Build classrooms where Atrium was, now you should have a smaller footprint and same square footage and plenty of room for staff parking and SAFE student pick drop off and pick up.  The neighborhood will be much happier as well as parents and students too.

    • hj June 18, 2022 (8:51 pm)

      No pleasant common areas for students and teachers! Only ruthless optimization of space to meet my amateur sense of resource utilization! If a prison-like atmosphere was good enough for ME in the ’80s then it’s good enough for these kids who keep coming to MY neighborhood expecting ridiculous luxuries like sunlight and a place to sit between classes!

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