“The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way.” - William Blake
by Stephen Miller, Editor
- The Capitol Hill Times -
Faculty, staff and an excited throng of students gathered on a chilly Sept. 20 morning to witness the ground breaking ceremony for the Northwest School’s new multi-purpose addition.
The 30,000 square foot, two-story building will take the place of what is currently a fenced-in parking lot at the corner of Pike Street and Bellevue Avenue and is slated to open in January of 2014.
“The greatest plus is unromantic,” said Head of School Mike McGill before getting a solid grip on the ceremonial jackhammer and taking the first stab at breaking through the site’s concrete top. “That is security.”
Currently, the school relies on leasing space from other partners with facilities capable of hosting their sports games, theatre performances and events. The new, $15 million building will finally give the Northwest School a home court.
“We’ve never had a home game,” Director of Development Leila Thomas said.
The extension will be quite the improvement, and the comments and level of excitement during Thursday’s groundbreaking were evidence that this was a long time coming.
“The building satisfies a number of long term strategic goals for the school,” said Site Committee Chair Andrew Borges. It will hold a gym, two-tiered dining facility, a state-of-the art 175-seat black box theatre, outdoor science classroom and even a rooftop sports court that will transform two-thirds of the available roof space into a playfield with nets to catch stray tennis balls. A portion of the roof will also host an herb garden to supplement the kitchen, which promises to roll out a new menu of healthy, locally sourced meals from its new digs.
The gym and the dream of an onsite homecoming seemed to reside foremost in the minds of many in attendance. The gym space also played a large roll in deciding where the building would be located, said Cory Carlson, president of the Northwest School Board of Trustees. The parking lot at 401 Pike St. is wide enough for a gym, tall enough for a cafeteria up above, and low enough for a theatre below.
“There isn’t a closet in this space that doesn’t have more than one use for it,” he said.
The building, designed by Seattle and San Francisco based architecture firm Mithun, is also expected to be, at minimum, 20 percent more energy efficient than called for by Seattle’s energy code, Borges said.
“We have a real commitment to environmental sustainability,” said Director of Communications Margie Combs. “It’s a big part of our mission in the school. There will be a dashboard that shows the building’s energy usage in real time and very sophisticated recycling and compost.”
Another advantage of the new facility will be the increased visibility, McGill said. “We’ll be much more prominent.”
The private college preparatory school was founded in 1980 by three teachers and currently enrolls 476 students in grades 6 through 12. It also hosts an international population of 75, of which 48 live in a dormitory that the school purchased last summer and recently renovated for $1.2. The school also recently hired a global recruiter who will work to proactively reach out to potential students in South America and other regions to grow its international population, which is currently mostly Chinese.
To date, $6.1 million has been raised from about 150 individual donors including 100 percent of its board of trustees. There is a $7.5 million capital campaign goal.