Everett district trying to sell, lease century-old Longfellow Building

EVERETT — The century-old Longfellow Building has been spared the wrecking ball, at least for a few more months.

Wednesday night, the Everett Public Schools board of directors declined to begin the process of demolition to create more parking.

Instead, the board decided to sell or lease the building at 3715 Oakes Ave., adjacent to Memorial Stadium, with the caveat that if no sale or lease agreement is reached within 120 days, the board will again consider knocking it down.

The board also decided to put another building, at 4730 Colby Ave., on the market. Both buildings served as district offices until 2013.

In sparing, for now, the Longfellow Building, the board heeded some community members who want it preserved.

Andrea Tucker, president of the nonprofit Historic Everett, compared the Longfellow Building to those in her home city of Boston.

“We have several 100-year-old buildings in Massachusetts,” Tucker said. “We’ll never have that here if we keep demolishing them.”

The Longfellow Building was built as an elementary school in 1911. It and a nearby annex have 25,171 square feet of office space.

The building has fallen into disrepair, however. Mike Gunn, the district’s executive director of facilities and operations, told the board that it would cost $7.8 million to renovate it for use as office space and perhaps $4.6 million more over the next 20 years to maintain it.

The district estimates that the building, annex and surrounding parking lot are worth $1.1 million to $1.6 million to a potential buyer, who would probably want to knock $500,000 to $700,000 off the price to pay for demolition.

“I think that we would not find a financially viable proposal that preserves the Longfellow building,” Gunn said.

If the district were to keep the land and demolish the building, it would create about 50 additional parking spaces on the property, Gunn said.

The district uses 47 stalls on the property now for buses. The other 120 parking spaces are used for athletic events at adjacent Memorial Stadium.

Buses for visiting teams drop their players off in the lot, which is immediately north of the locker rooms and showers of an athletics building.

Board members were sympathetic to the need for parking. To keep the Longfellow Building on the site would cost the district $78,000 a year in utilities and basic maintenance.

But by 3 to 2, the board voted to try to sell the property as-is, with the hope the building can be preserved.

“We need to put it out there,” said board Vice President Ted Wenta. “We might not catch any fish.”

Wenta, Traci Mitchell and Caroline Mason supported the effort to sell.

The board also voted 4-0 to list the Colby Avenue building for sale. Wenta recused himself from that discussion and vote.

“I represent an agency that may have interest in this property,” he said.

Wenta works as vice president of operations for the YMCA of Snohomish County.

The YMCA has been looking to replace its current Everett facility for several years, and the Colby property is one the organization is considering, said Scott Washburn, the CEO of the local YMCA.

“We’re really at the stage of narrowing our options and making a decision likely next year,” Washburn said.

The current YMCA building in downtown Everett was built in three phases, starting in 1920. The group has about 3,600 members at the Everett club, he said.

A formal letter of interest or intent has not been submitted to the district for the Colby property, Gunn said.

The district estimates that the building and its 8.1-acre lot are worth between $2.2 million and $3.9 million. If sold, the money would go to pay for capital projects elsewhere in the district.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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