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Thursday, March 7, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Puget Sound Christian College sells Edmonds site

Times Snohomish County reporter

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Puget Sound Christian College has found a buyer for the Edmonds campus it occupied for 24 years.

Dave Schumacher, a commercial broker representing the college, said the buyer is a local developer who did not wish to have further details about its identity disclosed.

The developer wants to build multifamily housing on the 3.6-acre property and wants to work "in concert" with officials in Edmonds, said Schumacher, of Bellevue-based Columbia Partners.

Arts activists and city officials have long wanted a performing-arts center for the city, and the college's 925-seat art-deco auditorium is a likely candidate for such a facility.

The Cascade Symphony and Olympic Ballet Theatre perform there, and "if the auditorium goes away, we don't have a venue for performing arts in Edmonds," Mayor Gary Haakenson said.

Last year, the City Council created the Edmonds Public Facilities District to look into creating a regional special-events center that would include venues for conferences and performances.

The facilities district looked at two potential sites — the college and an area near the waterfront — and the college emerged as the only viable option, said Terry Vehrs, facilities-district president.

District officials expect the project would cost about $10 million and would likely ask voters to approve a sales-tax increase of one-tenth of a percentage point later this year to help fund it. Such a vote would require authorization from the City Council.

Schumacher and Haakenson would not discuss how much the developer agreed to pay for the site, though Haakenson said that the price "came in at significantly higher than any of us expected."

The city has a 60-day right of first refusal on the property, but Haakenson said that is highly unlikely because the city lacks the "financial wherewithal" to do so.

"I'm not interested in buying the entire piece of property, and I don't think the council is either,' he said. "... But this particular buyer has met with me three or four times and is willing to bend over backwards and work with the city, the PFD (facilities district) and the residents."

The college moved last summer to a 10-acre site in Mountlake Terrace where Lake Ballinger Elementary School was once located. It was not the first move for the college, which began as Puget Sound College of the Bible in West Seattle in 1950.

It soon needed more space and bought land near the Woodland Park Zoo in 1956.

The move to Edmonds came in 1977, seven years before trustees changed the school's name to Puget Sound Christian College.

Janet Burkitt can be reached at 206-515-5689 or jburkitt@seattletimes.com.

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