The Seattle City Council passed a budget last year that includes a resolution calling for the transfer of several municipal properties to nonprofits using them to the benefit of residents. Among those properties is the Central Area Senior Center, operated by Sound Generations in Leschi.
But Mayor Jenny Durkan isn’t sold on the resolution just yet.
“She’s exploring her options, which is contrary to everything everyone has recommended and all the work we’ve put into it,” said CASC director Dian Ferguson.
The CASC building was constructed by the Christian Science church as a nursing home in 1959, and ran for less than a decade. African American leaders and community activists convinced the city to purchase the Leschi building at 500 30th Ave. S. to serve as a senior center for the Central Area’s aging population. CASC partnered with Sound Generations (formerly United Way’s Senior Services) in 1975, entering into a month-to-month lease with the city. In exchange for reduced rent, CASC has handled maintenance costs and minor renovation work during that time.
Since Ferguson joined CASC in 2014, she’s been working on stabilizing operations and negotiating a transfer of the city-owned property to the senior center, which has included developing a 2019-23 business plan and working with a structural engineer to determine what can be done with the current facility. Ferguson said the structural engineer did determine a one-story addition over the dining hall could be constructed if CASC wanted to expand its footprint.
“We didn’t know we were grandfathered in until the permit for the parking lot happened,” said Ferguson, referring to CASC’s plans to repair and reconfigure its parking lot. The nonprofit is still awaiting a permit since submitting its application in April 2017.
Ferguson said CASC has spent around $180,000 to meet the city’s requests for exploring a potential property transfer.
The green sheet approved by city council last November operates in conjunction with a statement of legislative intent (SLI) that requests the mayor’s office produce a report regarding the CASC building (also known as The Central) at 500 30th Ave. S., Byrd Barr Place (formerly Centerstone) at the former Fire Station 23 at 722 18th Ave., and Greenwood Senior Center by Feb. 1. The mayor’s office tells MPT it is still considering its options for CASC.
The council-approved resolution states “a report prepared by Soul Light and submitted to the Department of Finance and Administrative Services on September 13, 2017 determined that Byrd Barr Place and the Central Area Senior Center meet all documented criteria for receiving the property in which they currently reside and City departments believe these organizations have the capability of managing these properties after their transfer for continued community services.”
The resolution sets a deadline of no later than March 31 for completing the property transfers and mutual and offsetting benefit (MOB) leases with the nonprofits. If Durkan does not take any action by then, the council will proceed with either long-term property leases or transfers that include MOB leases that require the nonprofits to provide certain community benefits.
Ferguson said it’s been difficult communicating with the mayor’s office, and that meetings need to happen soon in order to outline terms for a potential transfer.
“We’re just all playing the waiting game, but we’re moving forward,” Ferguson said.
The CASC director is concerned Durkan plans to proceed with taking the property back for affordable housing, which has already been determined unfeasible on the property.
“WHEREAS, on October 7, 2016, OH [Office of Housing] determined that mitigating the steep slope on the east side of the property at 500 30th Avenue South (Central Area Senior Center) would make redeveloping the site with affordable housing financially unfeasible,” according to the resolution adopted by the city council in November, “and the benefits of having Central Area Senior Center (CASC) continue to serve African-American seniors in the community far outweigh the benefits of redeveloping the site for affordable housing.”
CASC Green Sheet by on Scribd