By: dgardner

Council chooses retail market over co-working center for old Woodinville schoolhouse

*BCRA is currently the Architect for the Woodinville Schoolhouse redevelopment.

The Woodinville Weekly
September 30, 2014
By Brianna Gerdeman

After years of discussions about renovating the old Woodinville schoolhouse on NE 175th Street, the Woodinville City Council picked a concept and a developer for a public-private partnership at last week’s meeting.

The city’s request for proposals in June turned up two proposals, both of which the council and city staff praised. Ultimately, the council voted unanimously to start negotiations with Wilcox Construction, which proposes turning the schoolhouse into a retail market with a brew pub as an anchor tenant, small retail shops and a central gathering area.
Wilcox’s proposal, which will be privately financed, involves a seismic retrofit of the whole building, reconfiguration of the interior and maintaining the exterior facade.

The other proposal, by Keith and Heather Maehlum, suggested turning the schoolhouse into a business incubator or co-working center for entrepreneurs and small businesses, with space for other uses such as a cafe, wine tasting and arts and crafts.

Both potential developers have experience renovating historic buildings, but Woodinville city staff said the Wilcox proposal more closely met the city’s goals. Wilcox pledged to bring the building up to current seismic safety standards, has experience rehabilitating historic buildings, provided a clear timeline for this project and has the ability to obtain private financing, Alexandra Sheeks, assistant to the city manager, said.

“We felt that the team that they brought to the project had a lot of experience in creating something that was very consistent with the city’s vision,” Sheeks said. “And that’s really what it comes down to, consistency with what the city had for the project — something that enlivened the civic center campus, that was a community gathering place, that really activated it … and they also have a full team assembled, including a contractor, an architect and a tenant at this point.”

The Maehlums proposed a phased development with a “pay-as-you-go approach.” The building, including the seismic retrofit, would be rehabilitated over time as revenues become available from early tenants.

Wilcox’s proposal for the schoolhouse suggests a space for a historical museum and shops such as wine tasting rooms, a florist and a specialty cheese and meat shop. The brew pub would include a brewery, two bars, a full-service kitchen, seating and bocce courts, and would be operated by local restaurateur James Weimann.

“I expect that when you come in the building, you still see that it’s a schoolhouse, from the outside and the inside,” said Matt Lessard, president of Wilcox Construction, who has lived in Woodinville his whole life and even attended school in the schoolhouse. “You’d preserve that ... it would still feel like how it feels, like a classroom.”

The focus of the Maehlums’ proposal was a co-working space.

“It’s a whole new concept that is happening worldwide,” Keith Maehlum said. “The major development organizations in the world ... have done recent studies on this and have many examples worldwide of this phenomenon.” He added, “With the technology companies on the Eastside, there’s more and more people looking to be able to work where they live, in Woodinville, and not have to fight the commute to Seattle or Bellevue.”

Several council members said they liked the idea of a co-working space, but Councilmember Liz Aspen said it wasn’t what citizens envisioned for the schoolhouse. Mayor Bernie Talmas said he’d like to see that concept somewhere else in the city.

In both proposals, the building would be owned by the city and leased to the developer, but the two developers suggested different lease terms. Lessard said Wilcox would like a lease of more than 30 years, while Maehlum suggested a lease of five to 10 years with the possibility of renewal.

This was an important factor for Councilmember Hank Stecker: “The building’s sat fallow now for 20 years,” Stecker said. “And if I hear a question, it’s ‘What’s going on with the old Woodinville schoolhouse?’ And I would hate to see that continue now for another five or 10 years….Without a time frame set for rehabilitation of the building, the facade of the building, seismic retrofitting of the building, I didn’t see anything on here that put any time frames in the first proposal on when that would get done.”

The two developers also took different approaches to parking. Maehlum suggested restriping the area around the schoolhouse to create more parking stalls, while Lessard suggested tearing down a city storage area to make room for more parking, which the city would pay for.

The city will spend the next few months negotiating with Wilcox Construction, in the hopes of executing a final agreement by December. Lessard said tenants would be able to move in about eight months to a year after construction starts.


View original article via The Woodinville Weekly

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