Northwest NEWS

February 15, 1999

Front Page

Woodinville looks at its own three acres for new City Hall

three acres

Currently, the three acres being considered for Woodinville's new city hall are home to boarded-up houses, outbuildings, and an old barn.
Staff photo by Andrew Walgamott.

by Andrew Walgamott, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--Woodinville officials are talking seriously again about building a new city hall--on their own land, rather than using the Northshore School District's downtown complex. The news comes after the City Council held a weekend retreat earlier this month.

   "They have pretty much determined that they want to build City Hall on the three acres they own," said City Manager Pete Rose.

   The three acres are tucked between Northshore's C.O. Sorenson school, Brittany Park, and 133rd Ave. NE. The city bought the property in October 1996 for $1.65 million after voters turned down $7.5 million and $6 million bonds to buy Sorenson that year. The property is generally flat, has three boarded-up houses, several outbuildings, and an old barn. There are a few stately Port Orford cedars, as well as some rabbits.

   Rose said city staff will now investigate whether building there is viable. They will look at what kind of structure could fit there, as well as limiting factors such as access and how much money is in the city's coffers for such a facility.

   The city has been squirreling money away in a civic center reserve fund for the past year. City officials anticipate that fund will contain $3.5 million by the end of 1999. "A lot of this is like reading tea leaves, but I think the City Council wants to know if they can go forward on this in a month or two," said Rose.

   Currently, City Hall is in the old Woodinville Schoolhouse, the red brick building at 13203 NE 175th St. Rose said it wasn't the best of working quarters, describing it as hot in summer and cold in winter. He said almost a quarter of it was given to circulation--large stairways, wide halls, and a wider lobby. Last year, due to cramping in the Executive's offices and a growing police force, Woodinville police were moved downstairs to a basement room.

   According to Rose, the city is already identifying potential project managers whose first item of business would be a facility study to determine what Woodinville needs. "Our rough figures are an assumption of 20,000 to 25,000 square feet on one or more stories. The site--and depending on the limitations--may force us into a multi-story building," Rose said.

   He said the pros and cons of underground parking would be explored, as well. Such a space would add flexibility into what could be done with the building in the future, Rose said.

   In his sixth week on the job, this is Rose's first major project. Councilmembers were reserving comment last week, directing questions to Rose. A civic center, part city hall, part community center, has been among the top projects for the past three city managers.

   "My major concern is setting a budget and holding the city to that," Rose said. He was vague about the question of a community center, though. Where city hall and community center were tagged together in the 1996 bonds, "they are not necessarily strategically linked anymore."

   Rose did call the schoolhouse a "neat old building... Hanging onto it would be great for the community."

   The City Council's apparent move puts the onus for preserving it back in the school district's court. According to Rose, the city isn't bluffing the Northshore School District to drive down the price of their 10-acre Sorenson complex, either.

   "I consider the city's move serious, but right now we're in the investigation stage," said Rose. A well-placed source indicates the city is earnest, as well.

   At one point, the district was offering Sorenson for $5.8 million. But after the failure of the second bond, and a change in city managers, the city's strategy to acquire the facility changed.

   In 1997, the city rezoned Sorenson--to the outcry of the school district--then passed an open space mitigation ordinance, and had the property reappraised. A consultant told the city the property was worth $4.5 million. Late that year, the city withdrew its offer to buy the complex. Through 1998, there was little action. Then recently, there were indications that the council was ready to act on City Hall.