City, school district discuss new high school at Seattle Center

The Mayor and Seattle School District both acknowledge talks tonight about a school, and potential renovation of the Northeast quadrant of the Civic Center.

SEATTLE – Seattle's mayor and Seattle Schools signaled Monday it's time to talk about a new high school at Seattle Center, as part of a major redevelopment of the urban campus.

The issue has bubbled up since the mayor convened a special summit on September 13.  The closed door meeting included Mayor Ed Murray and Seattle Schools chief Dr. Larry Nyland. Seattle Center Director Robert Nellams, Budget Director Ben Noble, and at least one Seattle City Council member were also there.

According to multiple sources and documents obtained by KING 5, the discussion centers around the so-called "Northeast Quadrant" of Seattle Center, which includes Memorial Stadium, the adjacent parking lot of 5th Avenue, the KCTS Building, and Mercer Garage site. The stakeholders were asked to brainstorm ideas for renovation, and include ideas for a new high school at Seattle Center, possibly at or near the Memorial Stadium site.

Memorial Stadium, which opened in 1947 and has been used since the 1962 World's Fair, is owned by the Seattle School District. It hosts multiple prep games and the Seattle Reign FC.  The district currently has a small presence at the neighboring Armory, with "The Center School,” which houses 300 students.

The Mayor's budget calls for spending $500,000 for “Northeast Quadrant Planning and Outreach,” and to "continue planning work regarding redevelopment opportunities.”

Murray, for his part, acknowledged Monday that the time is right for redevelopment. 

"The future of KCTS, where they might want to locate, the opera is making some moves. We have to decide what we're doing with parking lots across the street," he said.

Murray believes the school district is also very interested in doing something with the stadium.

"What's different this time – since 1962 – the Mayors and the City, and the School District have been at odds and this time the school district, Superintendent Nyland, and myself are committed to finding a way to make this work for everybody,” Murray said.

Murray recently reassigned his Deputy Mayor, Kate Joncas, to the role of overseeing the Seattle Center redesign.

That part of Lower Queen Anne, with its proximity to bustling South Lake Union, has ramped up the district's desire for a new school.

The Seattle School District released a statement acknowledging it is looking at the Memorial Stadium site for a potential school. 

“We are pleased to work with the city on improvements to Seattle Center,” District Spokesperson Luke Duecy wrote. “Memorial Stadium is a needed venue, and we want to rebuild it. The stadium serves our schools’ needs and is an asset for the Center.  We need more high school space. Building a new high school on our property solves two problems: it provides space where we have great need, and we already own the property.”

Other ideas exchanged during the September 13 summit included building a parking garage underneath a new stadium, and a potential land swap with the district to build a new school, perhaps in the spot of the current Mercer Garage.

"The school district would like it at that site, but at the same time people are thinking outside the box,” Murray said.

Copyright 2016 KING


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