No luck selling Everett School District’s historic Longfellow building

EVERETT — The Everett School District is still trying to sell the historic Longfellow building.

Since the century-old building went on the market in December, Everett Public Schools has received just one letter of interest for the building, from a startup group called The HandUp Project, which sought to build a living center and life skills program for homeless adults.

“They did not really demonstrate that they had the financial capacity to purchase or to upgrade this building,” said Mike Gunn, the district’s executive director of facilities and operations. “Nor did they have the experience in upgrading or managing a facility of this size.”

The district had estimated the building and its 2.3 acre lot are worth between $1.1 million and $1.4 million, but that it would cost $7.8 million to renovate it and bring it up to code.*

Right now the district only uses the building for some storage, and lets the police and fire departments conduct training exercises inside it.

But even in that capacity, keeping the electricity and heat on and the security system operational, the building costs the district $78,000 per year, Gunn said.

Robert Smiley, the founder and chief executive of the HandUp Project, said the district’s assessment of the group’s qualifications was inaccurate, and thinks there might be resistance from the city to building a residence for the homeless in the current political environment.

“We think it’s something else other than the financial issue that’s the problem,” Smiley said.

Smiley also believes there is a misunderstanding of the role his planned facility would have. It would not be an addiction treatment center, he said, but would focus on a two-year sober residency program to help homeless people with housing, job placement and life skills.

“We are not a mission; we are not where people can come in off the street and hang out,” Smiley said.

He added that he’ll keep working on securing financing in the hopes of changing the district’s mind.

The district intended to raze the Longfellow building, which is located at 3715 Oakes Ave., and create additional parking for the nearby athletic fields.

In December, however, the Everett School Board heeded those who wanted to preserve the historic building, and gave the district four months to try and sell or lease the building.

That window has now closed, and the district will try to figure out what to do next.

“We have basically taken it off the market and we’re going to be doing some further evaluation of the condition of the building,” Gunn said.

He said the district would document the Longfellow building’s historic character and listen to anyone who would come forward with a a viable offer to buy or lease it.

The district is also in talks to sell its former building at 4730 Colby Ave. The likely buyer is the YMCA of Snohomish County, which is seeking a new home for its Everett facility.

Gunn wouldn’t comment about the talks, but said the district likely will present the board with an update on the Colby building at one of its May meetings.

The district has retained Long Bay Enterprises and Century Pacific as its agents in the sale of both buildings.

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

Correction, May 19, 2015: Everett School District’s Longfellow building sits on a 2.3-acre site and is estimated to be worth between $1.1 million and $1.4 million. The acreage and value were incorrect in an earlier version of this story.

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