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.