Northwest NEWS

April 10, 2000

Front Page

Sorenson design team chosen

by Marshall Haley, staff reporter

   WOODINVILLE--The Woodinville City Council awarded the Carlson team the contract to create the Sorenson Campus Redevelopment Master Plan for a community center on the Sorenson property, at a special meeting on Tuesday, April 4, during which the Council interviewed two design teams before making the choice.

   The consensus from their post-interview discussion indicated the Council was swayed by Carlson's high-energy, enthusiastic, emotional feel for the project, their ideas for space connectivity, and by their track record for progressive environmental considerations.

   The Council interviewed the Carlson group and JGM Landscape Architects before making their selection. Council members struggled with their selection, citing many positive experiences they had with the JGM team that designed Wilmot Park and with the Lewis Architects team that designed the new City Hall. Ross Jamieson, Lewis co-owner, was part of the JGM interview team.

   The Council concluded that adding new blood into the mix could lend fresh, more diverse perspectives to the overall plan. The Carlson team brings a high-profile portfolio to the planned renovations of the historic Woodinville Schoolhouse and the Sorenson School. The Council liked their experience in creating public-private use space for such projects.

   Carlson team member Bruce Lorig's firm, Lorig Associates, has designed many such projects. Lorig converted Seattle's Queen Anne High School into condos, created the Wallingford Center Rehabilitation by converting that former historic schoolhouse into joint retail-public use, and designed the Pike Place Market Urban Renewal District. Lorig also created master plans for the Port of Seattle, Seattle Public Library, Seattle University, Pacific Lutheran University, and Bellevue's Meydenbauer Center.

   "What are possible pitfalls of a public-private partnership project?" Councilmember Don Brocha asked Lorig.

   "You can't let potential shareholders take control of the project and dictate the use of space," said Lorig. "As landlords, you have to establish clear goals for its use, to know what you're getting out of it: private use for rent, public, or a combination. You must have a real plan, to ensure someone can pay the bills before designing the building for them. For this building (Woodinville School), you wouldn't want to split the space so that any one user would have to operate on both floors, going up and down the stairs to conduct business."

   The Council was impressed that Carlson's team includes nationally recognized landscape architect Bob Murase's Murase Associates. Murase has designed projects for Microsoft's Redmond West Campus, Seattle's Union Station Redevelopment, King Street Station Intermodal Terminal, and Benaroya Hall Urban Plaza.

   "The first thing we need to do is find the personality of this place by working collaboratively with you, as we do with ourselves," Murase told the Council. "Each project is unique. We must take advantage of the local micro-climate and create a community center that is manageable, easy to maintain, and environmentally sound." Murase said his firm has won many awards for environmental integration, and recently landed a contract for a project in Grand Canyon National Park.

   Team leader Don Carlson's firm, Carlson Architects, has created facilities plans for the cities of Tukwila, Puyallup, Burlington, Island County, and Washington State. Carlson has created master plan projects for Eugene, Bend, and West Linn, Oregon, and downtown Port Angeles. Carlson's projects for private-public stakeholder combinations include the Denny Regrade Urban Center Plan, West Seattle Junction Neighborhood Plan, Morgan Junction Urban Village Plan, Belltown Neighborhood Center, Beacon Hill Neighborhood Library, and the Pike/Pine Urban Center Plan.

   For a current project, the Growing Vine Street plan in Seattle, Carlson said he hopes to get City of Seattle cooperation to allow a state-of-the-art system he designed for diverting roof water runoff into small reservoirs. Residents would use the water for gardens and other non-drinking uses. That design recently won an American Institute of Architects (AIA) award.

   "Some of your projects are way out of our league--can we afford you?" City Manager Pete Rose asked Carlson.

   "We can easily adjust our design to fit your budget," replied Carlson. "We realize you are not Microsoft. We also do projects for private schools, small churches, and private homes. We're lean and mean. For example, we avoid an expensive design phase because we use our in-house graphic designer."

   "Would you be interested in being involved in the project beyond the design phase?" asked Rose.

   "We would love to have this work into another project phase here," said Carlson. "It can be very frustrating to do a master plan without being involved with the building phase."

   "What made you select this project and not others?" asked Councilmember Barbara Solberg.

   "Your growing process," Carlson replied. "Woodinville is still developing its own unique personality. We have a diverse experience of projects, and we are all very visual people. We have the ability to weave people places into a working area. We're like actors, 'getting into character' for our projects. We have a chance to help you build a very humane community nucleus, very landmark-like. Together, we can figure out how to connect this community center with the river, and also break through to neighboring shopping areas so this project is not 'landlocked.' We can create a village setting out of these diverse buildings, with open spaces and walk-throughs."

   "You also have one big advantage, in that you control the land you're building on, unlike Bainbridge Island," said Lorig. "They ran into planning problems because they didn't own all the land designated for their civic center."

   Carlson Associates' Lead Planner Greg Waddell spent eight years as City Planner for Bellingham. Waddell said he would conduct the "stakeholder involvement" outreach process through a combination of written surveys, one-on-one interviews, focus groups, design charettes, workshops, open houses, and public displays.

   "We will want to first sit down with you (the Council) to develop our outreach strategy, to find out who to get involved, and how," said Waddell. "You need to clearly establish who will determine guidelines for the use of building space. You, as the City Council, would logically know what all potential stakeholders want."

   In the post-interview discussion, the Council agreed with City Planning Director Ray Sturtz's and Brocha's appraisal that they didn't need to form any special citizen advisory board for the project.

   "You can ask the Planning Commission and Parks Board for input," said Sturtz. "You can take advantage of that existing structure of hard-working citizen volunteers, who also hold public meetings. They know our Comprehensive Plan and can filter out citizens' suggestions that don't fit, before passing on their public hearing results to the Council."