Joint planning work continues between the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools to build a new downtown high school and replace Memorial Stadium, after the two announced a partnership agreement last November.

Representatives from both groups were at Tuesday’s Uptown Alliance meeting to provide an update on their efforts.

“I think our talks have been very productive, and we’re making progress,” said Jackie Kirn, a strategic adviser with the city.

While the stadium site and adjacent parking lot on Fifth Avenue North — both controlled by the school district — have been the focus, Kirn noted that the city owns the neighboring parcel that now houses the KCTS-TV studios, which could also be included in development plans.

The station’s lease will be up in 2024, and while the public broadcaster is hopeful it will remain either at Seattle Center or nearby, “they will be looking for another home,” she said.

Flip Herndon, the Associate Superintendent of Facilities and Operations for the district, said the central location of the stadium site would benefit the majority of students that use transit or walk to school. The downtown area is also one of the fastest growing in the city, in terms of student population.

“It’s very clear that there’s a strong need for this school,” Kirn said.

Herndon said the district is trying to get ahead of the curve when it comes to growth, having already opened or renovated 15 schools across the city, with another slate coming if voters approve the district’s capital levy next February. Lincoln High School in Wallingford is slated to reopen next fall, and is expected to be at capacity (1,600 students) within four years.

Finding land to potentially house new school facilities has proven challenging, and Herndon admits the district doesn’t have enough cash on hand to compete with developers. And when it does secure property, or merely wants to renovate an existing school, another factor looms large.

A past rule of thumb was that the construction cost of a new elementary school ran about $40 million, a middle school $85 million, and a high school approximately $100 million, Herndon said.

“I can tell you all of those are not enough to build those levels anymore,” he said.

The figures now run from about $65 to $150 million.

To that end, planning is currently underway for both the district’s operations and capital levies, the latter of which could include the downtown high school project. Herndon noted that the school board has already committed to rebuilding Rainier Beach High School, and that there are five middle schools and a dozen elementary schools that also need significant work. Not all of them can be funded in the next levy.

“The biggest challenge is how many projects can fit in this levy and how big is the levy going to be,” he said.

If for some reason the project didn’t make it into the February 2019 levy, Herndon said he wouldn’t be surprised if it was included in the next one, three years later.

However, Kirn said the city has talked about being a financial partner in the stadium project, and that other philanthropic partners may be interested.

“It’s going to be very exciting and very complicated,” he said.

Both sides also have slightly different goals for the construction of a new school on the site.

The district has to meet certain educational specifications (the number of classrooms, the size of the gym, etc.) while the city hopes to fully integrate the building into the Seattle Center campus.

“When we’re looking at these configurations … we’re also looking at how do these configurations give us some great opportunities to accomplish goals for Seattle Center,” Kirn said.

In addition, the public will soon be looped into the conversation as part of the planning process, once the sides come to an agreement on the structure of that community engagement.

“At this stage, our elected officials have been talking about how they want to manage that process together,” Kirn said.

Also discussed during Thursday’s meeting was the latest on Sound Transit 3, and the routing for the Ballard Link extension through Uptown.

Project Director Ron Endlich noted that the two alternatives found to have the most potential thus far in the early scoping process — in addition the representative baseline option that assumes a route under Republican Street — are routes that go under Fifth Avenue and Harrison Street, and under Sixth Avenue, Boren Avenue, and Roy Street.

Further evaluation of routing alternatives will continue through 2018, with the hope of having a a preferred alternative by early next year.

The next general meeting of the Uptown Alliance will be July 10 at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church (15 Roy St.).

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