In the halls and offices at Bastyr University in Kenmore, there's a different feeling now, the one that comes from owning, not renting. "People were saying, 'Is it...
In the halls and offices at Bastyr University in Kenmore, there’s a different feeling now, the one that comes from owning, not renting.
“People were saying, ‘Is it for real? Is it for sure?’ ” said Kathleen Warren, director of media and community relations, as she related how news of a change in the university’s status spread on campus Tuesday.
The news was that the school had bought its campus from the Seattle Archdiocese.
It was officially announced Tuesday that the purchase of Bastyr’s 51-acre campus had closed, ending nearly 10 years of tenant status for Bastyr.
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“Now that we own our home, we can look forward with greater certainty and strengthen our position as the leader in science-based natural medicine,” President Daniel K. Church said. “This marks a huge success and exciting turning point for Bastyr University,” he added.
It’s such a big deal that the school is planning a campuswide celebration Dec. 7.
Part of the feeling of accomplishment comes from a just-in-time aura to the purchase, Warren said. When the university moved to the Kenmore campus, it had a 10-year purchase option for the property, and that would have expired in July, so time was running out.
The sale marks another significant step in the school’s development, including a move toward beginning a 30-year development plan, though that still would have to be approved by the city of Kenmore. The plan calls for a $200 million expansion that would double the square footage, renovate the St. Thomas building, create multiple academic buildings and add 350 housing units.
The purchase of Bastyr’s land was financed partly through $12 million in bonds issued by the Washington Higher Education Facilities Authority.
Bastyr was founded in 1978 with 31 students, and Warren noted that the school has continually found itself pleased by the good fortune that brought it to the Kenmore campus.
Those circumstances originated with the availability of 367 acres along the northeast part of Lake Washington originally owned by Seattle Archbishop Edward O’Dea. St. Edward’s Seminary was built in 1931, and the St. Thomas Seminary was built in 1958. But falling enrollment led to the seminaries’ closure in 1977, and 316 acres were sold to the state for use as a park.
The St. Thomas Seminary became a conference center until the archdiocese entered a long-term lease with Bastyr, one of the leaders in the field of natural medicine. The university hopes to have some 2,600 students by 2030. It has 1,400.
The archdiocese also said it was pleased with the sale, since the funds, along with private donations, will allow it to renovate and expand the Palisades Retreat and Faith Formation Center in Federal Way. That facility supports 176 parishes and missions in Western Washington.
Bastyr students and faculty are looking forward to more improvements and a sense of stability at the Kenmore campus.
“People are thrilled,” Warren said. “When the e-mail [from the president to the staff] went out, you could feel it in the air. It feels really good to own the property, that we’re here for good.”
Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or firstname.lastname@example.org