A public-private partnership that could have funded more than $40 million in renovations for the crumbling seminary building at Kenmore's Saint Edward State Park has fallen through.
The unnamed cybersecurity company that had expressed a long-term interest in renovating and leasing the late Romanesque revival building ended negotiations with the State Parks and Recreation Commission Wednesday.
The company had started negotiations for a lease that could have lasted as long as a century after State Parks employees involved signed nondisclosure agreement, a practice typical of private commercial real estate deals.
But after media and several skeptical community activists requested those nondisclosure agreements in public disclosure requests, state parks officials decided it was lawfully bound to release unredacted versions of the documents. The state plans to release those on Monday.
"In private real estate it makes sense to not tip your hand, but this is not that type of deal," said Bill Miller, a former Bothell council member. "This is a private corporation dealing with a public building. "The name needs to be released so that the public knows nothing funny is going on. If there isn't anything funny, then there's no problem."
The lead broker for the deal, Dan Mathews of the real estate firm Kidder Mathews, said the state's disregard for the nondisclosure agreement was a betrayal of trust and prompted the company to end consideration of the lease.
He said leasing the structure was already going to be more expensive and complicated than finding another space for about 300 workers. Having the company's name released before it finalized an offer for public comment made the deal too complex to continue.
"It's a shame. The state's process killed it," said Mathews of the failed negotiations. "This was the real deal. Maybe they'll go and find someone else, but they probably won't."
State Parks spokeswoman Virginia Painter said the proposal was the first concrete offer to help save the increasingly dilapidated structure in years.
Neighboring Bastyr University had expressed interest in the property in October without any solid proposal, said Painter.
That same month, the Department of Defense and a U.S. government contractor were mentioned in emails between state parks employees planning tours of the property with Mathews.
Bastyr University spokeswoman Martha Lynn said the school was not party to the unnamed company's negotiations. She would not offer more detail about the school's interest in the property.
The last private entity to take a serious interest in leasing the building was Oregon-based McMenamins, which considered converting part of the property into a hotel and restaurant. After much of the surrounding Kenmore community trashed the idea, the company decided to transform the historic Anderson School Building in Bothell into something reminiscent of its quirky and widely-acclaimed Kennedy School in Portland. That is expected to open later this year.
The state itself will not have enough money to fund the seminary building's renovation any time soon, said Painter. On Tuesday, she said the state hoped the release of the company's name wouldn't kill further negotiations.