New home for Federal Way school administration?

With a little bit of property swapping and some improvements, the Federal Way School District's administration might have a new home with everyone under one roof.

The school district is considering purchasing the Northwest Corporate Center, across the street from City Hall on 8th Avenue South, to be the new home of the Educational Service Center (ESC).

Currently, the ESC is located on Pacific Highway South in a parking lot behind Indochine restaurant. The 50-year-old building is small and houses about half of the district's administrative team. The rest of the staff is located throughout the district, including portables at schools and in The Commons mall.

The ESC has been in its current location for 22 years. Now, due to the recession, the district discovered that to buy a commercial space already in existence in Federal Way would be cheaper than either building something new or remodeling the old building.

Besides being more expensive, remodeling the old building would trigger the city's code and require improvements on a nearby dead-end road. The city's long-term plan for that road would be to connect it to Pacific Highway South, running it through the side of the current building and giving the district less space to deal with, said chief financial officer Sally McLean.

The other added bonus of moving into one building is that all the resources for families will be in one place, rather than the current situation, which can lead parents and students to several locations just to get all the paperwork put together, McLean said.

"Parents are going to the district office and then to another school for exams," McLean said. "This will be one-stop shopping for customer service."

To buy the Northwest Corporate Center, it would cost $8.9 million. To remodel the current building to meet the district's needs would cost $4.5 million.

Having all the district's administrative staff under one roof would also be more attractive to potential employees, McLean said. The Federal Way School District employs about 3,000 people.

"We are now the largest employer in Federal Way," McLean said. "There is a business component."

Buying and selling

The district has the capacity to pay for the project, McLean said. Money would come from the future sales of the current ESC as well as the maintenance, operations and transportation facilities that will be replaced as part of the current construction bond. There is also some extra interest money that the district could use.

However, the district does not plan on selling the properties right away, and will use "bridge financing" in the interim, McLean said. The district plans to wait for a better market to sell.

The move could also save money in the general fund budget — less mileage costs for traveling to all the different sites, less wasted time traveling and not having anymore lease payments.

That savings could go toward educational purposes, McLean said.

Money for the purchase would come from the capital budget, which can only be used for property and building.

"We can't sell property and use it for education," McLean said.

The school board and several district administration members have spent the past few months looking at several real estate options in the city and narrowed it down to the Northwest Corporate Building.

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