Schoolhouse could become a cultural center or wine center

  • Written by Briana Gerdeman, News Writer

Old Schoolhouse Photo by Briana Gerdeman. The City Council is considering turning the old Woodinville schoolhouse into a cultural center with a black box theater or a wine center that would be a business incubator for new wineries.The old Woodinville schoolhouse will be transformed — but into what, nobody knows yet.

At last week’s City Council meeting, two architects from BLRB Architects explained how to turn the schoolhouse into a cultural center with a black box theater or a wine center that would be a business incubator for new wineries. Both options were based on input from the Council and from citizens at earlier meetings.

"In both of these schemes, the basic idea is that we’re going to try to retain as much of the existing building as possible, including millwork, finishes," said Ben Ferguson of BLRB Architects. "It is a historic schoolhouse."

The project will also include building more parking near City Hall and the Carol Edwards Center, and may involve redeveloping the Carol Edwards Center courtyard so people can walk directly from City Hall to the schoolhouse.

The Council didn’t make any decisions at last week’s meeting, but will keep discussing the issue at its next three meetings.

The cultural center would include, on the first floor, a cafe with a kitchen, a box office, a gallery for exhibits, a space for the Chamber of Commerce and a historic community classroom to acknowledge the building’s history, Ron Harpel of BLRB Architects explained.

On the lower floor, the cultural center would have a pub or jazz club with a kitchen, an optional patio, two offices for nonprofit organizations and storage rooms. Most of the upper floor would be devoted to a black box theater, in which the seating and stage could be configured differently for different shows. A theater office, storage, lobby, concession stand and dressing rooms or costume rooms would take up the rest of the upper floor.

Making a theater that will take up most of the upper floor would require more demolition, but would ultimately result in a more flexible space that could be used for different purposes, Harpel said.

The other option is a wine center — a business incubator designed to support fledgling wineries. On the first floor, the wine center would have a cafe, space for the Chamber of Commerce, two wine incubator rooms, and a culinary classroom, Ferguson explained. The lower floor would include a gastropub serving high-quality food, a kitchen, an optional patio and three more wine incubators. The upper floor would be made up of many more wine incubators. In both options, the architects also suggested building a deck by the back entryway.

A third plan, known as "Max Flex Scheme D," would involve taking out almost everything inside the building and reinforcing it with a steel frame and floor. That would allow for different floor plans in the building that don’t depend so closely on the configuration of the original classrooms, and therefore other uses than a cultural center or wine incubator. But Ferguson cautioned that since it’s a fairly small building, there aren’t too many other possible configurations. It also wouldn’t look like a historic building inside.

"The exterior of the building would look like the building that it is, but the interior of the building would be a new building," he explained. "We heard pretty clearly from the community that people felt a connection to this building, and we were urged pretty strongly in our community meetings to not consider tearing out all the walls."

A key difference between the cultural center and the wine center is that the wine center is expected to bring in more money for the city. Ferguson estimated the wine center would bring in $136,000 per year, compared to $80,000 per year for the cultural center (still enough to cover expenses.)

"It brings up the question of, what’s the role of this project on the site?" he said. "Is it something that’s a public amenity, where you’re taking people’s tax dollars for amenities for them, or is it something where it becomes an economic driver and something in town that people can be proud of and can make the community a stronger place?"

Regardless of which plan the Council chooses for the schoolhouse, it will require more parking. The architects from BLRB explained several different options for parking between City Hall and the Carol Edwards Center. The parking could be at surface level, slightly below City Hall and about level with the Carol Edwards Center. Or, the parking could be built about 10 feet below ground level — level with the sports fields. The parking spaces would be covered with a "lid" with a  civic plaza that would include landscaping and a pavilion.

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