Attempted sale of Hawthorne Hall fails

Historic Commission will return
By Brandon Gustafson | Sep 11, 2019

Sell? Lease? Tear down? Keep? What should be done with Hawthorne Hall?

Hawthorne Hall, 1134 Second St., is where the Mukilteo Boys & Girls Club called home earlier this year before moving to its new facility in Harbour Pointe. The building was built in the 1920s and was placed on Mukilteo’s Register of Historic Places in 1993.

During talks last September, Community Development Director Dave Osaki said the property was valued at just under $800,000, and if the City wanted to refurbish the building, it could cost anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000. He said three options were to sell it, lease it, or use it for City uses, such as a “satellite station” for the police department.

Osaki also said he’d received inquiries from a few different groups about leasing the building.

Another option would be to tear down the building, but due to its historical significance, it would be tricky, Osaki said. In order to remove or demolish a building on that list, Mukilteo’s Historic Commission must review demolition requests, per the City’s code.

But that commission is no longer active, and hasn’t been in some time.

In July, City Councilmembers toured the building as part of a work session to determine the  shape of the building. They discussed the three options, and agreed to discuss the future at a later date, especially regarding hiring an inspector to see what repairs could be done on the building and how much that could cost.

Flash forward to last Tuesday, Sept. 3, and Hawthorne Hall’s future was again the main topic of discussion.

Osaki again updated Mukilteo’s elected officials, telling councilmembers the City found someone to evaluate “what they couldn’t see” in the building, such as electrical components, possible asbestos and lead, and that they would give a cost estimate for how much it would cost to “rehabilitate” the building.

He said to do the most thorough study possible through the consultant, it would cost a little under $50,000, but there were elements that could be removed to save some money.

Councilmember Steve Schmalz said he was “kind of ticked off” because it could fall under $30,000, so wouldn’t need council approval or direction.

“I think council needs to give direction to the City about whether they spend, you know, $2,250 to $30,000,” he said.

Schmalz said the City had run into problems before when consulting was under $30,000 because the council didn’t know it was happening.

Schmalz also said he wanted the City to come back before the council with whether the cost was under $30,000 or not, which Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said they would.

Councilmember Scott Whelpley said he wanted to make sure the City wasn’t spending too much money on something that may not pay off in the end.

“At what point do we say it’s not worth it? $100,000? $200,000? Half a million?” he said to the other five councilmembers present.

Whelpley said the reason the City gave the Mukilteo Boys & Girls Club $500,000 to help pay for the new facility was because the club initially wanted to sell the building to get money. With giving the club that money, he felt the understanding was the City would sell the building to recoup those costs.

Schmalz said other councilmembers repeatedly say the City is in a budgetary hole, and that selling the property could give a one-time boost to the City’s general fund, rather than paying out money to examine, and potentially repair and operate the building.

He made a motion to direct the City to sell the property for two residential lots.

“I think the time is now. We’ve been talking about this for two years, and we’ve been going back and forth,” he said. “I just don’t see the value of preserving this building and putting it to some use.”

Council President Christine Cook said while some councilmembers “combined the two issues” of giving the Boys & Girls Club $500,000 and then whatever the City decided to do with Hawthorne Hall, “they were separated.”

“That’s not a combination we can make, whether that was in our minds or not,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. They were separated.”

She also said she was opposed to selling historic buildings to put it into the City’s general fund. She would rather see money go to a “legacy project” if ended up being sold.

Whelpley said he led the charge two years ago to give the club money for its new facility, and that the two ideas shouldn’t be separated.

As far as the historical aspect, Whelpley said the same thing was said about the old Rosehill facility, but now people are happy with the newer Rosehill.

Councilmembers Bob Champion and Sarah Kneller both wanted to see the consulting work done.

“Let’s make a small investment to understand what the true benefit or value is, and make sure we get that in front of the citizens of Mukilteo,” Champion said.

Ultimately, Schmalz’s motion failed 2-4, with just he and Whelpley voting for it.

Afterwards, Council Vice President Anna Rohrbough made a motion directing City staff to work on reinstating the Historic Commission to assess Hawthorne Hall.

The motion tied 3-3, with Rohrbough, Cook, and Champion voting for it. Gregerson broke the tie in favor of the motion.

Rohrbough made another motion for staff to come back to the council with a “revised scope” of  what the consultant would do, limiting it to structural assessment, regulated building materials (whether there is lead or asbestos), and the cost estimates for repairs.

Schmalz tried to delay the discussion to early next year, but didn’t get a second. Rohrbough’s motion then passed 5-1, with just Schmalz voting against it.



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