The Northwest School in Capitol Hill has secured three properties on Bellevue Avenue for $8.6 million to be used for future campus development.

The Northwest School has purchased from Barokas Martin & Tomlinson Law Firm land and building structures at 1422 and 1418 Bellevue Ave., and a 14-space parking lot at 1417 Bellevue.

“You could say it’s been a 20-year negotiation,” said Head of School Mike McGill of work with the law firm, which sold the school its 401 E. Pike property several years ago. “I think we’ve kind of been in constant conversation about those properties.”

That has involved an annual lunch between McGill, The Northwest School’s board president and attorney Larry Barokas, he said, where the conversation always turned to acquiring those properties when Barokas was ready to sell.

At one point, The Northwest School had considered a joint development.

“We weren’t really interested in a mixed-use,” McGill said, “and I think it would have been difficult to develop in that way anyway.”

The 500 students in the 6-12th independent school are primarily taught through the old Summit School building at 1415 Summit Ave., which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.

“We fully intend to keep using that to the hilt, and whatever the development becomes we will still make hearty use of this facility,” McGill said.

There had been concern near the end of the acquisition process that the buildings on the properties could be landmarked, so a demolition permit was filed to see if it triggered such a process, McGill said. The Department of Neighborhoods declined.

McGill said the bulk of the $8.6 million purchase was made with reserve funds, and did not require fundraising. The same fund was used to purchase the 401 E. Pike addition that opened in 2014 and includes a theater and rooftop sports center.

“At this point we’re sort of in the midst of raising money for our financial aid endowment,” he said, adding that endowment has grown over the past few years from $2.8 million to $8.4 million.

A middle-schooler’s tuition could cost more than $34,000 a year, and upwards of $36,000 for a high school student.

The Northwest School acquired its wedge-shaped dormitory building on the growing campus in 2011, where international students are able to live.

The building at 1418 Bellevue will be demolished, so the land can be converted into a pop-up garden, and a new building will likely be constructed there in the future. 

“That’s a placeholder,” McGill said of the educational garden. “We expect this spring to put out an RFP (request for proposals). So we’re in a new strategic planning process right now.”

McGill said it should take the board until the end of the school year to come up with a vision before going out to bid for master planning, which could include creating new classroom, office and gathering spaces.

Part of the planning process likely will not involve discussion about separating middle and high school classes between two facilities, he said, due to the high rate of success The Northwest School has had with its integrated model.

“I think we would be unlikely to build a separate middle school or standalone upper school,” McGill said.

The school’s business offices will eventually move from leased space on Bellevue Avenue, between Pike and Pine streets, into the 1422 building, as will some faculty offices in the old Summit School building.