Local News

Committee recommends purchase of Sorenson for Civic Center

$7 million could be price tag sent to voters in May

civic center

A tree-lined boulevard fronts a renovated Woodinville School housing city offices and a historical museum, while Farmer's Market greenhouses and a trail to Jerry Wilmot Park add to the country ambience of the proposed Woodinville Civic Center.

civic center by Jeff Switzer, staff reporter
Picture meandering trails, long greenhouse structures for the Farmers' Market, a renovated Old Woodinville School house for the city government and the historic museum, plenty of parking, and tree-lined boulevards.
   You're looking at the master plan for the future Woodinville Civic Center.
   The Civic Center Committee has recommended that the Woodinville City Council go to the voters this May with a $7 million bond measure to purchase the Sorenson School site plus three acres in order to implement the recently-finished Civic Center Master Plan.
   Following 10 weeks of meetings, the citizen advisory panel (CAP), made up of area residents and business and community leaders, presented their collective $14.5 million vision for the future Woodinville Civic Center to the City Council on Feb. 5.
   "This represents a great opportunity for how we as a community are going to give back," said Stu Clarke, CAP co-chair. "We can save this piece of land for community use and set the tone for years to come."
   Having received the recommendations of the CAP, the council now has to decide on the priorities, funding options for the entire Master Plan, a timeline to work from, and what bond issue to send to Woodinville's voters.
   Official council actions could begin Feb. 12. Different decision models will be presented to the council at that meeting, outlining various priorities previously identified by the CAP, the consultants, and the councilmembers. The council has until Mar. 25 to decide on the bond issue in order to get it on the May ballot.

The proposed Master Plan: $14,546,000
   The CAP has completed its vision for the entire civic center, which takes a comprehensive look at the entire area surrounding the school site and possibilities for the future.
   The price tag for the entire master plan runs $14,546,000. That figure includes the estimated $9.26 million needed to secure the master plan's 15.5 acres.
   Also included is the $2.1 million the consultants have recommended for improvements to the five buildings, based in part on the due diligence studies conducted last year.
   Other costs include user improvements for the buildings totalling $568,100 for floors, mechanical improvements, windows, and ADA requirements; and approximately $1.9 million for trails, courtyards, streetscapes, pedestrian and automobile signals, future parking, and the new 133rd Avenue NE and other site improvements.
   "[The CAP and the consultants] created the menu; time and money will dictate how the menu schedule is managed," said Jim Granger, project manager for the civic center.
   The CAP also strongly recommended that the city enter into negotiations to purchase additional parcels adjacent to the Sorenson site--to the northeast and northwest--to complete the Master Plan produced by the CAP and the architects.
   The consultants and the CAP considered other sites in the area, including the 44 acres of the proposed retail center, but it was found that it would cost $21.2 million to accomplish there what the city can get out of the Sorenson site for $14.5 million.
   The CAP recommended that the Old Woodinville Schoolhouse serve as the center for city government, a Historic Society Museum, and the Chamber of Commerce; that space be allocated for a senior center, adult day center, youth center, and multi-use meeting rooms; and that there be a trail link with the Jerry Wilmot Green Gateway park.
   While a performing arts center is also being strongly considered for the site, it is not included in the costs to date, as private funding and a possible partnership with the School District could be in the picture.
   In order of preference, the CAP further recommended that the city:

What the $7 million would buy
   If the council decides to put the $7 million measure before the voters in May, the money would secure for the city a total of 13.5 acres: the surplused 10.5-acre Sorenson property, buildings and sports fields; and three acres located to the south for use as parking for the site.
   According to Granger, the school district has not attached any value to the buildings in the negotiations with the city, which means the city would be paying the price of the land and getting the buildings for free.
   Should the $7 million bond go to voters and pass, new taxes levied would amount to $0.687 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, or $103.50 on a $150,000 home.
   The city remains in negotiations with the school district for the purchase price and terms. It has been indicated that there is a strong willingness to sell to the city and, based on the CAP recommendations, a strong willingness on the part of the community to buy.

Funding sources
   Currently, there are two main funding sources under consideration for the $14.5 million project: general obligation (GO) bonds, which are voted on by the residents of Woodinville; and Councilmanic Bonds, which are approved by the City Council by pledging city revenue sources towards the payment of loans.
   Carl Easters, an architect on the project, said the property is for sale and will be sold whether the city buys it or not. "This is a chance for Woodinville to establish and re-establish a center for Woodinville," Easters said. "That is a hard thing to come by anymore."
   The Woodinville School was built in 1934, is 23,947 square feet in area, and sits on approximately one acre; the Sorenson complex, built in 1973, is 39,218 square feet and sits on 9.5 acres. The whole site totals about 10.5 acres.
   Larry Chime, CAP co-chair, stressed that the benefits of acquiring the site are both immediate and far reaching, allowing the city to purchase the historic building, the use of the pool and the gym, as well as becoming owners rather than renters for city government offices and meeting rooms.
   The city currently pays Northshore about $35,000 per year for use of the old schoolhouse building and council chambers.
   The YMCA leases the gymnasium and the pool; Bellevue Christian School leases the equivalent of six rooms, or 5,000 square feet; one room is leased by the Northshore Co-op Preschool; and 20,000 square feet is leased for the Earlier Childhood Program for handicapped preschool children, and Headstart.