PLU responds about the Parkland School

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Pacific Lutheran University has added an article to their website about the Parkland School, also referred to was East Campus. This is copied from their web comments on 6-25-22.

East Campus / Parkland School Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Pacific Lutheran University is committed to the long-term health and vitality of Parkland, Washington. We’re proud of the 130+ years of connected history we share with our region, and we are committed to ongoing partnerships with Franklin Pierce Schools, local small businesses and nonprofits, Pierce County, the health department, and others. We’re proud to serve more students than ever from the Parkland, Spanaway, and Lakewood communities.

As a university, our priority is our students — to educate them for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership, and care – for other people, for their communities, and for the earth. This priority drives all of our decisions and is at the heart of everything we do, from increasing scholarship opportunities to investing in new academic programs and stewarding resources that support student and community thriving.

PLU has been the proud steward of the East Campus site since purchasing it in 1990. We understand this site and building are significant to some of our neighbors in the Parkland community – particularly those with fond memories of Parkland Elementary. This page intends to give insight into why PLU is selling East Campus / Parkland School.

PLU is selling East Campus because we no longer have any university-related function for the property and building. For the past seven years, we’ve attempted to find a viable long-term tenant or owner for the site that would serve Parkland. Because of the building’s condition, lack of accessibility, and the numerous major repairs and renovations required, we’ve made the difficult decision to sell the property to a Pierce County group interested in developing a combination of market and affordable housing at the site — a project that would contribute to county and state plans to combat the housing shortage in our community.

As a university of Lutheran higher education, where we encourage the asking of big questions, we understand that conversations between collaborative partners can sometimes be challenging. Yet we also know that undertaking these conversations and doing purposeful work is always worth it.

This page will continue to develop with more FAQs and resources. (Last update: June 17, 2022)

Why is PLU selling East Campus / Parkland School?

We understand this site and building are significant to some of our neighbors in the Parkland community – particularly those with fond memories of Parkland Elementary. PLU has been the proud steward of the site since purchasing it in 1990. 

PLU is selling East Campus because we no longer have any university-related function for the property and building. For the past seven years, we’ve attempted to find a viable long-term tenant for the site that would serve the Parkland community have been unsuccessful, in large part because of the numerous major repairs and renovations and related costs it would require. 

Since 2015, PLU officials have been engaging state and county leaders, as well as a variety of education and healthcare organizations about this site in search of viable long-term occupants for the building. Despite our best efforts, tenable options have not emerged because of the cost-prohibitive challenges of the space.

Specific challenges presented by the site:

  • The building is not safe, nor is it ADA accessible and the systems in the building have exceeded their expected lifetime. There are electrical needs, asbestos, IT requirements, old piping, structural integrity issues, roof replacement (lots of leaks), and lack of any seismic retrofitting. The early estimate for a renovation is $28.5 million dollars.
  • In recent years, it has been the target of multiple arsons, copper wire theft, vandalism, and graffiti. Because it is a few blocks away from our campus, providing security for the building has grown challenging and resource-intensive for our Department of Campus Safety. 
  • We are engaging a potential local buyer that approached us, and are insistent that any plans for the site serve the long-term health and vitality of the Parkland community.

Who have you talked to about purchasing the building?

We’ve been searching for a viable long-term tenant or owner for the site that would preserve the building and serve our Parkland community for at least the past seven years including conversations as recently as this month.

The search has included discussions with county and state leaders, local schools and school districts, leading South Sound private and non-profit community organizations, local healthcare systems, and many others. Ultimately, none of these organizations and businesses were interested in stewarding the next chapter of this property, largely because of the numerous major repairs and renovations required to make the building safe, usable, and accessible. 

Early estimates suggested a total cost of at least $28.5 million to bring the building up to code and improve its utility and safety.

PLU is committed that any sale of this site will be to an entity that has plans that will benefit and enhance the Parkland area. For instance, we’ve passed on fast food restaurants that inquired about the location.

What would it cost to renovate the building?

Early estimates suggested a total cost of at least $28.5 million to bring the building up to code and improve its utility and safety.

The building is not safe, nor is it ADA accessible and the systems in the building have exceeded their expected lifetime. There are electrical needs, asbestos, technology requirements, old piping, structural integrity issues, roof replacement (lots of leaks), and lack of any seismic retrofitting. 

In recent years, it has been the target of multiple arsons, copper wire theft, vandalism, and graffiti.

Why a possible housing development?

After years of efforts to find a tenant proved unsuccessful, we were approached by a Pierce County group interested in developing a combination of market and affordable housing at the site. This property is within the “Garfield Residential Target Area,” a targeted area permitted for multi-family housing incentives in Pierce County (Pierce County Code 18A.68, 2022, and Pierce County: Affordable Housing Incentive Evaluation, 2019). As such, the site is in a targeted Urban Growth Area that has been identified as urgently in need of additional housing. Adding upwards of 190 housing units, including at least 38 affordable housing units, would contribute to county and state plans to combat our county’s housing shortage in our community.

What about the history of the Parkland School?

We want the history of the Parkland Elementary Grade School to be preserved. The university is hoping to commission an oral-history project centering on Parkland Elementary Grade School alumni and their stories about the school.

We’re advocating for the preservation of some part of the physical building in an exhibition space within a new building.

What about a Community Center in Parkland?

We deeply recognize the need for a community center in Parkland, however, we think this building is simply not a viable, sustainable option.

We’ve been searching for at least the past seven years for a viable long-term tenant or owner for the site that would preserve the building and serve our Parkland community — including holding conversations as recently as this month. The search began in 2015 while researching the feasibility of a community center in the space. The Franklin Pierce School District, MultiCare Health System, PLU, and the YMCA of Pierce and Kitsap Counties commissioned a joint study to determine the demand for a community/wellness center to serve the Parkland community. While demand was high and the study highlighted the lack of community services in our region, the partners were not able to financially commit to the project due to cost. The search for another long-term tenant or owner continued through discussions with county and state leaders, the local school district, leading South Sound private and non-profit community organizations, local healthcare systems, and many others.

Ultimately, none of these organizations and businesses had the interest and ability to steward the next chapter of this property, largely because of the numerous major repairs and renovations required to make the building safe, usable, and accessible. Our early estimates suggested a total cost of at least $28.5 million to bring the building up to code and improve its utility and safety such that PLU would be willing to once again occupy the space. Since PLU has no programmatic purpose for the building, an investment of that scale is simply not feasible or prudent for us either. 

PLU’s other land development plans on the former golf course currently prioritize community-serving spaces. Community listening sessions and other engagement about these plans are ongoing. If we can align partnerships and funding we would like to co-construct a community center or other community-serving space, which might include a non-profit incubator space, after-school programming, etc. 

2 Comments Add yours

  1. gaylecarlson says:

    It seems the main reason to demolish Parkland school is due to its’ terrible condition and cost to repair. Yet, if it was in such deplorable condition, how could they even consider leasing it to Mt. Rainier Lutheran HS for the use of our future leaders! I haven’t heard any explanation of how they in good conscience could lease such a building for use of teachers and students. And is the rumor true that PLU canceled the lease after Mt. Rainier put thousands of dollars into the building, and PLU is saying they could not find a tenant!

  2. Jane Eichner says:

    An expertly crafted public relations statement. But PRESERVATION MATTERS. Period.

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