The old Arlington High School. (Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)

The old Arlington High School. (Washington Trust for Historic Preservation)

For lease or sale? Arlington High’s historic A Building

The school board will consider hiring a real estate consultant to market the beloved building.

ARLINGTON — Once the hub of town, a vibrant place where generations of students roamed the halls for more than 70 years, the old Arlington High School A Building is rather tranquil these days.

Less than a dozen school district employees occupy the bottom floor, while the second and third stories sit empty.

That doesn’t mean the building isn’t still beloved by many in and around Arlington.

It’s just the community outgrew the campus years ago. And the old educational edifice is a building of many needs with seismic and electrical issues and unable to meet today’s Americans with Disabilities Act access requirements.

The landmark built in the 1930s during the Great Depression is in need of care.

The goal for the Arlington School District is to find a partner to give it a meaningful purpose.

On Monday evening, the school board will consider a staff recommendation to hire a real estate consultant to market the building. With specific aims, the district is looking to sell or enter into a long-term lease. District leaders hope to find a buyer or tenant who would “preserve the character of the building” and meet the district’s purpose of education and serving the community, according to the staff report.

Last year, a 16-member advisory committee, most of whom attended classes in the A Building years ago, spent eight months studying the possibilities.

“Our goal is to have the building remain a community asset as it once was, but we have to make it safe in order to do that,” said Brian Lewis, the district’s executive director of operations.

The recommendation is to request letters of interest from potential suitors.

Whatever happens after that will take time.

“The proposals have to be sound from a business point of view,” Lewis said. “It is going to be a commitment on the part of the district and the (client) to make this work. … We want to make sure this is of value to everybody. We don’t have a calendar created for this yet. That’s one part of the work that a real estate consultant would help us out with.”

The proposed agreement with Long Bay Enterprises in Edmonds is for $12,000 and would include site tours for interested parties.

The A Building at 135 S. French Ave. has attracted the attention of the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation, a nonprofit organization that listed it as one of its most endangered places in 2018.

The Historic Preservation trust wrote: “Built in 1936, the old Arlington High School has been loved by generations of students. With its grand front entrances, streamlined architectural details, balconied auditorium, and original iron and glass skylights, it is a beautifully intact example of Art Deco architecture. In addition to its clear architectural value, the building features two murals from Washington artist Richard Correll, funded by the Works Progress Administration in 1940.”

One of those murals measures 9 by 12 feet and is called “Bunyan at Stillaguamish,” a nod to the folklore figure Paul Bunyan as well as the community’s logging and lumber days.

The historic preservation trust has its hopes for the building’s future: “There is an active need for a community center in Arlington. With the school’s proximity to downtown and public transit, local advocates see the school as a perfect candidate for just such an adaptive use. Still in its historic configuration, the former school could easily accommodate Arlington’s nonprofit and arts communities with studio and makers spaces, meeting and office spaces, educational and training spaces, and even a large performance venue.”

The bond measure to build today’s Arlington High School off Highway 9 passed in 2000 after many tries over many years.

In recent years, the A Building has housed a revolving door of tenants, including Highland Christian School and the Arlington Boys & Girls Club before it opened its new building.

The school board meeting at 315 N. French Ave. begins at 6 p.m. Monday.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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