Representatives of King County attending last night’s 12th Avenue Neighborhood Stewardship Committee meeting were able to say very little about the reported possibility that the Youth Services campus could be transferred to a private developer. Facility Projects Manager Jim Burt and Alan Painter of the Executive’s Office acknowledged that the top-ranked candidate in response to the County’s request for proposals and concepts for a strategy to produce a new courtroom and office space had proposed a plan to move the Youth Services functions elsewhere. A report published in the “Seattle Times” suggests that a Wright Runstad plan would involve moving the courtroom and detention facilities to the Beacon Hill hospital building most recently identified as the home of Amazon.com However, citing confidentiality constraints, County officials could only confirm that the evaluation process continues. Painter was asked about the reliability of published reports that the Executive could announce by this Thursday or Friday a yes or no decision regarding the proposal to move the Youth Services functions. He said that was a likely schedule for such a decision.
The County’s stated goals require that any strategy resulting in a new courthouse or a new courthouse and detention facility not cost more than the revenue produced by a sale or lease of all or part of the County-owned real estate that is the current Youth Services Center campus. Painter did say, without indicating a decision has been made, it is proving difficult to find that the move to the Amazon.com building would meet the financial requirements.
For close to ten years 12th Avenue Neighborhood stakeholders have been meeting with county officials urging them to move forward with plans to turn the large surface parking lot into a mixed-use development that includes housing and neighborhood-serving retail space. The neighborhood also has repeatedly asked that the County stop providing hundreds of free parking spaces to County employees and, instead, vigorously promote transit use, including a transit route on 12th Avenue.
The County has produced several conceptual plans that would make way for mixed-use development fronting 12th Avenue and would reintroduce, at least at pedestrian routes, some of the public rights of way through the 8+ acres campus. Those plans would go some way to allowing the County-owned site to contribute to the revitalization of the “12th Avenue Urban Village” as identified in the City’s comprehensive plan.
Over the last ten years and more the City has devoted substantial resources to improve the streetscape on 12th Avenue and has supported private development on land formerly owned by the City. Many believe that the County, as property owner, is an obstacle to further neighborhood revitalization.
The 12th Avenue Stewardship Committee has pointed out that dozens of homes, and several streets were destroyed when the Youth Services site was built decades ago. Now, even if the Juvenile Court and Detention Center remains, the County could more creatively use its land to support long time goals of its Central Area neighborhood.