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Heritage Society makes its pitch to retain old schoolhouse

  • Written by Don Mann
The Woodinville Heritage Society delivered on its promise, and now the ball is back in city council’s court.

Heritage Society President Rick Chatterton and Vice President Kevin Stadler presented a detailed plan to rehabilitate and operate the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse, and it was received well by the powers that be.

“The Society’s mission is to acquire, preserve and perpetuate the artifacts and history of the greater Woodinville area,” Chatterton began. “Clearly the old schoolhouse is an artifact and we’d like to see it preserved for future generations.”

On May 8 the Heritage Society requested that the council postpone a decision on the future of the landmark building which has been dormant for over a decade to allow them three months to establish a proposal for its renovation.

On Tuesday Chatterton and Stadler, with behind-the-scenes help from the Woodinville Chamber of Commerce, made their pitch, suggesting the old schoolhouse could serve as a community and guest gathering place, a welcome and information center and a connector for business, visitor and residential communities.

The two-story edifice (not including basement space) contains 15,000 square feet of usable floor space, based on a previous feasibility study by SHKS Architects which the Society used to framework its proposal.

It was suggested the main floor be used for a resident and guest information center, Chamber and other economic development offices, a small library or retail space and a wine tasting room which recognizes the history of wine in Washington state.

The second floor would include a community theater, more community meeting space, artists’ lofts and a restaurant with a deck, while the basement could house a brewpub.

Nothing was set in stone, Stadler said, though the Society felt strongly about the theater space being included.

(It should be noted the Woodinville Repertory Theatre is currently seeking a permanent home and has publicly coveted that space.)

An additional 150 parking spaces could be achieved, as SHKS suggested, by the demolition of two adjacent city-owned buildings.

Then came the funding overview — perhaps not generally an area of expertise for a historical society but one near and dear to council members concerned with the bottom line.

Yet Chatterton and Stadler had crunched the numbers and estimated the total cost of rehabilitation and improvements was $6 million which could be achieved by a voter-approved bond issue of the same amount, they suggested, using property tax dollars.

Specifically, owners of a $450,000 home would pay $85 annually for 20 years, or $7 per month.  Additionally, over 50 percent of the overall cost would be paid by the business community.

Further, to gain voter approval, 40 percent of the prior general electorate must vote.

With a 54 percent turnout in the 2011 election (3,650 voters), that means 1,460 bond voters would be required.

Then 60 percent of them would need to vote in the affirmative.

The Society spokesmen strongly suggested conducting a professional survey by an outside consulting group to determine if their vision is what the Woodinville voters want and are willing to pay for.

Estimated costs for that are $6,000, and they were willing to split the bill with the city.

Mayor Bernie Talmas thanked them for their presentation, adding it was “a lot more detailed and helpful than what we got from some of the experts.”

“And much less expensive,” Chatterton chimed in, to muffled laughter from the gallery.

Preliminary council response appeared to be positive and indicated widespread support to share the cost of the consultant. Talmas said it would be placed on an agenda “probably in November.”

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