Highland Park Improvement Club’s new post-fire price tag: ‘If we can’t raise this money, we can’t rebuild the building’

(Rendering by Wittman Estes)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

Almost a year and a half after fire gutted their historic headquarters, Highland Park Improvement Club has a design, an architect, and a new price tag: $3.1 million.

That’s four times the total amount they expect to get from insurance.

But if ever there was a can-do crew, it’s this one, and HPIC board members presented an optimistic, determined front at an online Town Hall tonight updating the community on the rebuilding plan – including how you can help even if you can’t donate a dime.

The new estimate came from architect Wittman Estes – whose designs were shown and discussed at previous Town Halls – and newly hired contractor Metis Construction. It’s for a building envisioned aw a “future connector and heart of our community” in multiple ways, not the least of which is as a performing-arts center. That’s important because of a big grant they’ve just landed: $400,000 from the Washington State Building for the Arts. This is a prestigious, competitive statewide grant, and HPIC trustees are ecstatic they got it. Add that sum to the expected insurance money and $55,000 already received in community donations, and they’re up to $1,205,000.

But they need community support to lock in that grant, as it requires State Legislature approval, so they’re asking for people to contact first Governor Inslee and then local legislators to ensure the grant goes through. The message: What HPIC means/has meant to you. It’s been a community center for more than a century, hosting celebrations, meetings, bazaars, workshops, performances, and in times of trouble – like the pandemic – campaigns to help, like emergency food distribution. If you don’t have your own message to convey, HPIC has a suggested template on its website, as well as information on how to get your message to the governor. Get a message to him by Thanksgiving, and then attention will turn to state legislators before they convene in Olympia early next year: Our area’s State Senator Joe Nguyen, State House Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon, and State House Rep.-elect Emily Alvarado.

And while they mount a letter-writing campaign to secure that $400,000, HPIC board president Rhonda Smith said, “We need to start working in the direction to find (the rest of the) money – if we can’t raise this money, we can’t rebuild the building.” They’re acutely aware that the charred HPIC, at 12th/Holden, is an eyesore, and even if all goes well, will remain that way for a while – they have a tentative date to submit building permits in February, and once permits are granted, construction is likely to last a year. If necessary, they said, the building can be built in phases – even if only part of it can be occupied for starters.

While strategizing how to fundraise, they’re also grappling with how to continue serving and connecting the community despite the lack of a building, They’re welcoming “fresh ideas” and more volunteers on that front as well as the search for dollars. If you are interested in helping – or have an idea about funding sources – hpic1919@gmail.com is how to contact them. And watch hpic1919.org for updates.

ADDED FRIDAY: HPIC has uploaded its video recording of the meeting here.

21 Replies to "Highland Park Improvement Club's new post-fire price tag: 'If we can't raise this money, we can't rebuild the building'"

  • Tony November 11, 2022 (3:24 am)

    That price tag is really steep and I’m not sure it’s worth it. HPIC is a great place…yes. But the new design is far from realistic in this environment. I’d get another bid. 

  • Paul November 11, 2022 (6:23 am)

    Dont know if there are any grant writers working with them, but the Boeing Foundation funds capital improvements.  

    • KayK November 11, 2022 (2:36 pm)

      Thanks Paul, great idea. Been focused on public sector grants so far, but will be looking at other sources too!

  • Gatewood resident November 11, 2022 (7:50 am)

    They could also try and land on a more modest plan that costs less

    • Delridge Resident November 11, 2022 (10:02 am)

      I agree.  It’s a nice design but if the price tag can’t be met without substantial additional funds, I don’t see why a more modest alternative couldn’t be on the table. I wonder if there were also design considerations for community volunteers to help build it while also…. building a sense of community!  A good old fashioned barn raising!

      • Rhonda S November 11, 2022 (4:30 pm)

        Community volunteers are a part of this plan!

  • Bh November 11, 2022 (10:03 am)

    Why do they need to make it into something that our neighborhood isn’t? I feel like something that fancy is not a good fit in this formerly working-class neighborhood. Nothing around here is that nice. If they get 3 million cool, but why not try and fix the building? It’s not burned to the ground after all.

  • I'll Do It Myself For That Price November 11, 2022 (10:14 am)

    What kind of world are we in where $1.2 million dollars can’t build a smallish community center?

  • Highland Park native November 11, 2022 (3:49 pm)

    Why can’t a community that has dealt with so much these last few years dream big?? As a resident of Highland Park, i welcome all of it!! It is our home that brings our community together and not having it has been a big blow both for outreach as well as local programming. I cannot wait to walk through those doors once again. BH, it cannot be fixed from what i remember in earlier briefings as the main structure from the inside has been compromised and has to be torn down, thus a complete rebuild is needed. 

  • Community Member November 11, 2022 (4:03 pm)

    This is a reasonable price for a semi-public facility to serve the community for the next hundred years.  If the design accommodates a tenant, such as a day-care center, that regular income could service a mortgage that would meet some of the cost.

  • sgs November 11, 2022 (4:20 pm)

    What response did they get at the town hall?  I’m not in that neighborhood, but would like to hear what the neighbors thought of it.

    • WSB November 11, 2022 (8:04 pm)

      There were some questions but not really a vigorous discussion – the meeting was more informational.
      HPIC’s video recording of the meeting has just been uploaded and you can see it here:

  • Rhonda S November 11, 2022 (4:21 pm)

    Before the fire, the HPIC building stood for over 100 years and will be rebuilt based on the community’s input in creating a vision for the next 100-plus
    years. If anyone has questions about the community’s input or the process, please go to HPIC’s website to watch the town halls of the past. http://www.hpic1919.org. And always reach out at hpic1919@gmail.com if you want to help us achieve this important goal.

    This vision is big and it is achievable. This community is deserving of a building that is well-designed, safe and simple, and most importantly, exciting. This is exactly what the community needs at the moment. It will be an inviting landmark for this entrance to West Seattle and it will enhance the Highland Park/Riverview neighborhoods, the greater West Seattle community, and beyond.

    We seek to partner with multiple cultures and embrace the diversity of our neighborhood. HPIC has been and will continue to be a destination for the West Seattle community, music performances, and the arts. Let’s work together to find a pathway there!

  • Mj November 11, 2022 (5:57 pm)

    The Hall used to be rented out for events.  Can some of the money be borrowed using the rental income to cover payments?

  • Kyle November 11, 2022 (8:43 pm)

    Woof. The problem is we don’t have a building to use while fundraising for 10 years to guarantee the future. I think building the pricey future building now instead of just getting functional from the insurance money will be too much. I mean they are millions short? Not sure where that will come from.

  • Mj November 11, 2022 (10:13 pm)

    Kyle – The HPIC facility was a asset to the whole community, replacing it with nice new facility as envisioned would be a great addition to the area.  

    • Kyle November 12, 2022 (5:59 am)

      I agree. Do you have the millions extra to make up the funding gap? Otherwise it’s no asset for anyone unless they have a more modest proposal. 

  • BlairJ November 12, 2022 (7:13 am)

    HPIC is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, and donations may be matched by some employers.  Yesterday I donated $1000 through my employer’s donation portal, and their match is pending.  The more financial support shown by the community, the easier it will be for HPIC to obtain funding from other sources.

  • Highland Parker November 12, 2022 (9:37 pm)

    To address the negative or pessimistic comments, there has been a reflective and exhaustive process of deciding to rebuild and reviewing design proposals over the last year.  It’s not pie in the sky to raise the money required, and the building is already a bare bones structure, not a fancy hall with all the bells and whistles. Architectural concept drawings tend to emphasize the building by making it stand out and minimizing the surroundings. The design presentations in previous town halls showed how similar buildings look once completed, and they have a warmer and less bold appearance than the illustration conveys. The building will fit in fine with the surrounding community but will also be a landmark that befits a regional performance venue.

  • gatewood88 November 14, 2022 (11:27 am)

    people saying this is expensive are not realistic. have they looked at the budgets of any proposed city of seattle community centers? 3 million is  a STEAL for a building that looks as nice as this. think of all the ppl it serves too.. i don’t live in highland park- but often drive through. good for them- we should support their drive to service and improve their community. 

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