Sammamish still looks to fill church it bought for $6.1 million

Officials in Sammamish are looking to bring higher education to the city. It's been a goal for a long time - and last year it looked like it would finally happen.

SAMMAMISH, Wash. -- Nearly a year after buying the old Mars Hill Church for $6.1 million, Sammamish city leaders are still trying to find a tenant for the property.  However, officials remain confident a short-term lessee can be found while the long-term desire remains to bring some type of higher education satellite campus to the plateau.

"We're looking at other options," explained Acting City Manager Lyman Howard, "We think it's still a viable project to continue to work on."

When the property was bought last March, Howard said the city had non-binding letters of intent from Bellevue and Cascadia College as well as Lake Washington Institute of Technology to use the Mars Hill site.  Ultimately, all three backed out due to cost.

The property can only be used for educational or other non-profit purposes, and because it is surrounded by wetlands, it cannot be expanded.  Howard said if in the end a suitable tenant cannot be found, the city would make money on the land if it went back on the market.

Deputy Mayor and Councilmember Ramiro Valderrama is skeptical about the investment he initially supported.

"I think the initial intent was worthwhile," said Valderrama, "I don't think we should be in the real estate business."

Howard said the city is negotiating with short-term tenants, while at the same time, gathering interest from other state higher education institutions about using the property. In order for a school to prepare the site for the fall semester, a decision would have to be made soon.

"I do have concern about trying to hold onto this building for much longer," said Valderrama, "Given that no one has stepped up to the plate and said, 'We're interested.'"

"I think it was a delay," added Howard. "I think the desire is still there.  We think we made a good investment."

 


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