What is the current condition of the District Office on Dupont Street?
The current District Office was built in 1908 as Roeder Elementary School. The building became administrative offices in the 1970s.
It is the oldest building in the district and the only building not seismically retrofitted. In 2006, voters approved a bond that would provide seismic improvements to District Office. However, those funds along with state construction assistance funding were reallocated to the rebuild of Birchwood Elementary School which reopened in 2014. Although we did not move forward with the seismic improvements, studies were performed that us determine the cost associated with work.
The current District Office has not received any major upgrades in over 100 years.
Major structural deficiencies of the facility include that the roof and floors are not connected to the exterior walls creating a potentially catastrophic situation if the walls were to give way in an earthquake. All building systems including electrical, heating and ventilation and plumbing are at the end of their useful life.
Rainwater and sewage flooding has occurred in the basement where our district technology hub and staff are located. Additionally, the building still has the original knob and tube electrical.
The current building is not accessible for staff or visitors with disabilities.
The original plan was to renovate the building, so why is the District Office relocating instead?
Renovating the District Office was part of our facilities bond in 2013 and we waited to turn our attention to this project until all our 2013 school projects were complete. Our thinking at the time was to rebuild on our current site at 1306 Dupont Street, unless a better idea emerged. At 112 years old, it is the oldest facility in our district.
The building does not meet any current building codes. There is limited parking, which can be frustrating for visitors, families and neighbors who receive the overflow of cars when we have large meetings or staff trainings, which occur almost daily.
In addition, remodeling would require us to temporarily move during construction and incur rent or leasing expenses for 18-24 months.
In June 2018, we shared that we were approached by local property owners regarding some ideas of different sites for the District Office. These ideas were less expensive and avoided relocation costs.
Over the last two years, we worked with community partners to evaluate other sites instead of improving our current building.
Why was Barkley chosen as the location?
After extensive research and vetting we decided to move forward with relocating to Barkley.
The site on Barkley Boulevard offers ample parking, room for future expansion if needed, and the possibility to bring local partners and services for families, including an early childhood component. It’s on a bus line, near the City’s trail network, provides amenities for staff and visitors (grocery, medical, retail, etc.) and is centrally located within our school district boundaries.
One of the key advantages is that we will likely save over a million dollars by moving to Barkley as opposed to remodeling our current site on Dupont Street due to avoiding relocation costs and the unknown costs associated with renovation. Even with comprehensive analysis and best estimates, we know that remodeling our 112-year-old building comes with many unknowns. Building new can often be less impactful, less expensive and results in a better final product.
We shared the Barkley proposal with a number of groups, including the Parent Advisory Committee, District Office staff, school board and our leadership team. In March 2019, we shared that the feedback we received was overwhelmingly positive. We engaged with the public via email, phone and in-person meetings, including a community forum at the District Office on Feb. 26. While some neighbors have wonders about the future of the office building on Dupont Street once we vacate , many community members say they prefer the plan to relocate to Barkley for the financial savings and better accommodation of future growth, both for office space and parking capacity. Based on the input we received, we decided to move forward with plans to relocate the district office to the Barkley district.
This presentation shared at the community meeting on Feb. 26 also outlines the advantages of moving to the Barkley location.
How does moving to Barkley really save money?
One of the key advantages of moving to the Barkley location is that we will likely save over a million dollars by moving versus remodeling our current site on Dupont Street due to avoiding relocation costs and the unknown costs associated with renovation. Even with comprehensive analysis and best estimates, we know that remodeling a 112-year-old building comes with many unknowns and that building new can often be less impactful, less expensive and results in a better end product. We ultimately intend to sell our Dupont Street property, unless a better option emerges.
What other options were considered? Why didn’t the district move to property they already own?
We hired an independent commercial real estate agent to locate a property for us that would meet all our needs, these included: a space for a building of 50,000 square feet, must have adequate water, sewer and utilities, parking for at least 100 people and zoning in place that allows us to use outright or with conditional use permit. The real estate report found only two properties that met our requirements. One property was the Barkley location and the second property was located near Marine Drive and Bennett Ave. This second property posed challenges including location and lack of access to public transportation. It was also not “pad ready” with potential unknowns around wetlands, storm water, utilities and more.
We also had other local partners offer ideas, but ultimately, no other locations fit our budget and needs to accommodate staff and our community as well as Barkley.
What is the timeline?
In December 2019, we shared that we officially own the land at 1885 Barkley Boulevard, and we will be working with Bellingham-based RMC Architects as our partner in this project. We will launch a design advisory committee in early 2020, with construction beginning in 2021.
What is the budget for the new District Office?
When voters approved the bond in 2013, we estimated it would cost $17 million to complete the entire project. We believe these estimates are still accurate. We purchased the land on Barkley Boulevard in October 2019 for $2.1 million.