FOLLOWUP: ‘Stabilization’ project for Hiawatha Community Center, closed 3 1/2 years, finally going out to bid

(WSB photo)

By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor

The “stabilization” project for long-closed Hiawatha Community Center will formally be advertised for bids starting tomorrow.

Seattle Parks and Recreation deputy superintendent Mike Schwindeller tells WSB that his department got the confirmation “at noon today.” They’ll accept bids through January 10th.

At last week’s “West Seattle park projects update” online briefing, Schwindeller said the long-delayed project would go to bid this week, but we’ve been watching the city’s bidding website and hadn’t seen it as of this morning, so we asked about the status, and got Schwindeller’s confirmation in reply.

The center closed early in the pandemic, in spring 2020, but unlike most other Parks facilities, never reopened. It’s left north West Seattle without a community center, as Alki CC first converted to child care/early education and then closed entirely for the adjacent school rebuild.

In an online conversation following up on last week’s briefing – set up at the behest of a community advocate who has long been bird-dogging Parks on Hiawatha’s status – former acting superintendent Christopher Williams (now chief of staff) tried to explain why this turned into a four-year shutdown before the project even went out to bid, and admitted that “if we had to do this again, we would not have closed Hiawatha so prematurely.” They kept it closed believing the start of the stabilization project was a lot closer than it turned out to be.

Much of the delay has been attributed to a half-million dollar federal grant – about a sixth of the project’s $3.9 million budget. Schwindeller said they have funds they can use to cover if the project costs go over? So why couldn’t those funds have been tapped instead of having a half-million-dollar grant hold things up? Walking away from half a million dollars would have been “a hard decision,” Williams said, while adding that there’s always a “learning curve” when they’re dealing with grants and their unique red-tape requirements … “we’re trying to learn from this.” Even once the grant was awarded, they said, a separate process was triggered, with “different accountabilities” and “different timing.”

The community advocate told the Parks managers (as did we) that communication was a major problem too – frequently getting different answers about what was holding up the project and when key milestones like bidding would happen. Williams apologized for that too, saying, “We can do better, we will do better.” In addition to online updates, Parks promised an accurate sign would go up at the site of the shuttered center. The project scope is summarized as “electrical repairs, water and sewer pipe replacements, furnace and water heater repairs, roof replacement, and more.”

WHAT’S NEXT: Schwindeller says, “Assuming we receive favorable bids, the subsequent steps require weeks to progress through contractor verification, insurance and bond requirements, contract execution and notice to proceed. We anticipate a construction start date in March 2024.” Meantime, the playground project at Hiawatha – separate from the “stabilization” work – is being redesigned because of stormwater concerns, and is expected to go to bid next spring and start construction in the summer.

ADDED FRIDAY MORNING: The project has indeed opened for bidding, posted here this morning. Here’s how the project is described:

Construct Interior improvements to existing Community Center including interior finishes, and accessibility improvements. Construct exterior improvements including re-grading and replacing existing sidewalks and ramps, repairs to exterior façade elements, roof replacement and electrical upgrades. Work includes staging, construction access, temporary power, sanitary and water connections to be maintained for the project duration. Protection of existing facilities to remain. Work also includes selective demolition and renovation of the existing community center building. Additive 1 – Electric Switchgear Replacement. Add. 2 – Roof Replacement, Rooftop Mechanical Unit Replacement, and Low Slope Roof Insulation. Add. 3 – Exterior Upgrades that includes window replacement (other than Storefront Openings), Gym Clerestories, and adding blown-in insulation.

13 Replies to "FOLLOWUP: 'Stabilization' project for Hiawatha Community Center, closed 3 1/2 years, finally going out to bid"

  • onion December 7, 2023 (10:17 pm)

    Not one part of the “explanation” for the delay holds up. “Learning curve” my a**.   The Parks Department truly has made some baffling and unjustifiable judgements regarding West Seattle facilities in recent years.

    • K December 10, 2023 (8:36 am)

      They city’s explanation for the delay is that they made mistakes.  Are you suggesting that this wasn’t a mistake, that they closed the Community Center for this long on purpose, and are now engaging in a cover-up for this deliberate action?

  • Admiral-2009 December 7, 2023 (10:44 pm)

    Wow the City adds significant delay to try to leverage $500,000?  The way this City spends money, $500,000 is pocket change, the kids in North West Seattle need a community center yesterday.  Enough delay time to get the project done!

  • Admiral-2009 December 7, 2023 (10:47 pm)

    Regarding the playground, it’s frustrating that the City is not providing lighting, the existing playground has lighting via the Tennis Courts and a light on the pole next to the playground structure.

  • WSEA December 8, 2023 (7:40 am)

    I’ve email the parks department many times and get a canned response of lies.  I would recommend email the mayor and the deputy mayor.    Lisa (city council) has also hit roadblocks.  Maybe the new council member can give it a try.   Would be nice to have a indoor basketball to use during the winter months. <> <>

  • Alki gal December 8, 2023 (8:31 am)

    That location could be perfect for the new, proposed Duwamish youth-focused Community Center.  That proposal came in #1 in the city’s participatory budget process.

    • Chris December 8, 2023 (9:59 am)

      It already is a community center. The Hiawatha Community Center. There are already youth focused resources available if they would do their job and open it. 

  • WSB December 8, 2023 (9:32 am)

    And to followup, the bid advertisement has indeed been published this morning:

  • CN December 8, 2023 (1:53 pm)

    Would the parks department consider tearing it down, expanding the footprint to add additional indoor sports space? We need more sports facilities in West Seattle 

    • Buzzy December 8, 2023 (3:33 pm)

      So just go ahead and tear down  “the oldest community center west of the Mississippi”?  Designed by the very same Olmstead Brothers who designed Central Park? Why don’t we tear down that old library down the road while we’re at it?  Maybe you should read a little of our rich West Seattle history before making such silly suggestions.

      • uncle loco December 8, 2023 (5:42 pm)

        I could see that as a possibility if they designed it for indoor pickleball…

        • North Admiral Neighbor December 8, 2023 (10:27 pm)

          A big thank you goes to the West Seattle Blog.  Thank you for following this story and bringing it to light.  The playground and the community centers are treasures.  With no people in the park to use those facilities, bad things go on.  I hope citizens do write the new Councilmember, Rob Saka,  the Parks Department and the Mayor.  Without many voices putting pressure on them to finish these projects, it will take longer.  To the person who wants to tear it down, please look at the history of this beautiful park. 

      • Andrew December 8, 2023 (6:14 pm)

        Why not just be another one right next to it and have both. 

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