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City looks for private developer for old Woodinville schoolhouse

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman

With a new request for proposals (RFP) for private developers, the old Woodinville schoolhouse has another chance at life.

The city previously explored an RFP in 2012, then considered a bond measure in 2013, but abandoned the bond measure due to a lack of voter support, Alexandra Sheeks, assistant to the city manager, said.

This time, “the RFP allows for broad and flexible proposals for development, and it really talks about the schoolhouse as being contextualized within the surrounding Central Business District area,” Sheeks said.

The new RFP also provides background on the schoolhouse, including “its current state of repair or disrepair” and its historic value; expresses preference for proposals that foster community interaction; highlights the need for on-site parking; and specifies that the city prefers a long-term lease with the city retaining ownership, Sheeks said.
“It’s very thorough, and I’m really pleased about that, getting the background and our expectations for preserving the building,” Councilmember Liz Aspen said in support of the new RFP.

Sheeks said the city envisions the renovated schoolhouse being a “third place.”

“The idea is that it’s a place that you can go and hang out and meet your friends and have community and grab a bite to eat,” she said. “It’s a gathering place, essentially.”

Councilmember Susan Boundy-Sanders added, “That’s from ‘The Great Good Place’ by Ray Oldenburg, 1989. Home is the first place, work is the second place, and a place to gain a sense of place in a small town, to socialize, to sort of a be a member of the town, is the third place, and that’s a heavily used concept in planning.”

The RFP references “wine, culinary and arts development,” but Mayor Bernie Talmas wants to make sure that plans for the schoolhouse aren’t limited to those options.

“I think it was the intent of the Council at our last discussion that this be as broad as possible, that we’ll entertain any potential uses,” he said. “It doesn’t even have to be limited to wine, culinary and arts development. And we certainly want that, but I don’t want to limit this in any way. Our real goal is to get the school rehab.”

Phyllis Keller, a member of the Woodinville Heritage Society, said the city had crafted an RFP that should interest prospective developers and attract satisfactory proposals.

“I think the staff has done a good job this time on the RFP for the Woodinville school,” Keller said, adding, “I’m most pleased that the staff expressed ‘a willingness to investigate any and all solutions to the parking challenges to arrive at a mutually beneficial solution’...and that they say ‘some codes can be waived because of the school’s landmark status.’”
The RFP was issued last week after a unanimous vote by the Council, and the city will accept proposals through July 30. The city will review the proposals it received in August, select finalists and present them to the Council in September and negotiate terms with the developer in September through November before executing a final agreement in December, Sheeks said.

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