It’s getting tougher for tech companies to find office space in the Seattle region, which is leading some entities to get creative. And one mysterious Seattle area cybersecurity company may have discovered a historic — yet dilapidated and underutilized — gem.
The old Saint Edward Park Seminary building — constructed in 1931 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007 — has emerged as a potential outpost for the unnamed company.
The potential arrangement, which is still in negotiations, is unique in that a private software company could take over a lease of a historic building in the middle of a state park. A public meeting is set for Jan. 14th to evaluate the potential of the lease, and solicit community feedback. (See update below).
Virginia Painter, spokeswoman for the Washington State Parks, said the identity of the company likely will be disclosed early next week as documents are made public. The company is looking at a short-term lease, moving into the old seminary in March, completing some necessary improvements. Over time, the company could occupy about 75 percent of the 80,000 square foot building, designed by Seattle architect John Graham Sr. in the Late Romanesque Revival style. It stopped operating as a seminary in 1977.
“The use has to fit in with the use of the park, and it has to be acceptable,” said Painter. “And the level of investment has to benefit the public.”
Washington State Parks has provided general upkeep of the building in recent years, but budgetary woes have led it to fall into disrepair. There’s an estimated cost of $40 million to completely overhaul the building, once targeted by McMenamins for a brew pub, conference center and hotel. That plan fell apart in 2007.
“Right now there is mostly nothing going on there, mostly cobwebs,” said Painter.
“We have that abiding sense of responsibility to care for theses place and keep them part of our state legacy,” said Painter, adding that it is critical to find a partner for the building that fits within the makeup of the park.
The State Park system does occasionally lease space at buildings on state lands, including some small leases for non-profit organizations at Ft. Worden in Port Townsend. However, Painter said a partnership with a software company would be unique.
However, with state funds unavailable for building preservation, Painter said they are looking for alternatives.
“It is very unlikely that the state is going to have funding to take care of this building. It has a great deal to need,” she said.
The unnamed cybersecurity company is represented by Kidder Matthews, and the The Seattle Times reports that the company, which could house up to 300 workers at the park, is still considering how much it would cost to renovate the building.
In a statement last month, Washington State Parks director Don Hoch said that they have an obligation to explore the lease proposal.
“It is unlikely that State Parks will receive sufficient capital funds to take care of the building, and the brokerage firm has expressed that its client has the means and willingness to make a significant investment,” said Hoch. “If we want to keep the proposal alive for further evaluation, we need to allow the client to occupy some part of the building relatively quickly. So we want to do what we can to make that happen so we can explore the longer term potential.”
UPDATE: The Seattle Times reports that the unnamed cybersecurity firm has pulled the plug on the idea of moving into the seminary building in part because of plans by the Washington State Parks Department to release the name of the company in public documents. Dan Matthews, the real estate broker representing the company, called it a “shame” and told the Times that “the state’s process killed” the deal.