June 11, 2014
Vol: 21 No: 24

News

Feds nix plan to turn former Federal Reserve bank into homeless shelter

By Aaron Burkhalter , Staff Reporter

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The Department of Health & Human Services (DSHS) rejected a proposal to turn Seattle’s 60-year-old Federal Reserve Bank building on Second Avenue into a service center for homeless people.

Now, Seattle Public Schools is researching whether the property is suitable for a school, spokesperson Tom Redman said.

The federal McKinney-Vento Act requires that organizations providing homeless people get the first shot at acquiring — at no cost — surplus federal property before it goes up for auction to a private buyer.

Local service agencies, organized by the Compass Housing Alliance, submitted an application to turn the building into a shelter and service center, which could have included space for a number of nonprofits that benefit homeless people, including Real Change.

In a rejection letter dated June 2, DSHS said that the organizations did not have a sufficient funding plan to manage the necessary capital improvements.

Supporters of the service center say DSHS misinterpreted elements of the financing plan and have asked the department to reconsider the proposal, said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

The six-story building with a vault spanning two floors has been vacant since 2008, when the federal agency moved its operations to Renton. The building has 90,000 square feet of usable space.

Now the Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) is working with Seattle Public Schools and the city of Seattle to submit an application within a month to acquire the building and turn it into a K-5 public school, said Jon Scholes, DSA’s vice president of advocacy and economic development.

The DSA has been interested in the site since the fall of 2013, Scholes said. The proposal came to light in March, after Compass Housing Alliance had applied for the property.

Scholes said downtown Seattle is already flush with services for homeless people and new services should be located in Seattle’s other neighborhoods and around King County.

“We believe the services and housing should be available to [homeless people] in their communities,” Scholes said.

“They shouldn’t have to get on a bus or get a ride downtown to access these services,” he said.

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