Seattle Parks and Recreation has released a request for proposals to redevelop and operate a 144,000-square-foot complex with two airplane hangars.
The last large, undeveloped building from the former naval air station at what is now Seattle’s Magnuson Park could become a giant fortress for film.
Or a lacrosse complex. Or an archery range. Or both of those. Or something else.
Seattle Parks and Recreation this month published a request for proposals (RFP) for the renovation and operation of the 144,000-square-foot double hangar known as Building 2, and Hollywood-level film production may be part of at least one proposal.
“We’ve had calls about everything from swimming pools to basketball to archery to film production to rock climbing — some really bold and interesting ideas,” said Cheryl Fraser, strategic outreach director for parks.
The department sought proposals for a number of Magnuson Park buildings in 2005, but nobody was interested in Building 2, Fraser said. “We’ve had a lot of inquires about the space since then,” she said, leading to the new RFP.
Between 1975 and 2005, the U.S. Navy turned over 364 acres of the station on the Sand Point Peninsula to Seattle Parks and the University of Washington.
Building 2, used until 1970 as an airplane assembly and repair shop, includes a 15,484-square-foot north hangar built in 1929 and a 32,548-square-foot hangar built in 1941. There also are workshops, offices and mezzanines.
The north hangar’s ceiling truss soars 45 feet above an expanse more than half the size of a football field. There are water puddles on the concrete floor, and mezzanines are scattered with pigeon droppings. Some rooftop windowpanes are still blacked out, a reminder that enemy airplanes were considered a threat during World War II.
Basic work to obtain a certificate of occupancy will cost whoever has the winning proposal at least $20 million, Fraser said. The roof must be replaced, the utilities must be redone and seismic reinforcement is needed. Fully redeveloping Building 2 will cost much more.
But the rundown hangar is immense enough to make imaginations run wild, and when Kate Becker is there, her imagination sprints in the direction of moviemaking.
Becker directs the Seattle Office of Film and Music and is working with industry players who may submit a proposal. Seattle loses business to cities such as Vancouver, B.C., because it lacks a soundstage — a huge black box where films can be produced.
“Our competitors all have soundstages,” she said. “This is the largest publicly held open-space building north of L.A. This is an opportunity we need to pay attention to.”
Building 2 has been used in several ways since 1970. The U.S. Coast Guard occupied part of the structure briefly, as did the U.S. Marine Corps.
From 1992 to 2001, it and other Magnuson Park sites were used by film-production companies. Building 2 played a role in 1995’s “Assassins,” starring Sylvester Stallone and Antonio Banderas.
There were intermittent art exhibitions in Building 2 during the late 1990s and early 2000s and, starting in 2002, Arena Sports used the structure for indoor athletics.
The only tenant now is Parks’ Seattle Conservation Corps, because Arena Sports moved in 2010 to redevelop and manage Building 27, another Magnuson Park hangar.
The city’s vision for Building 2 has changed over time. In the 1990s, multiple plans mentioned film production, while a 2007 plan called for skateboarding. More than 70 people attended a community charrette last June to help develop a new vision.
The new request for proposals says Parks is seeking someone who can make a significant capital investment in exchange for a long-term lease or concession agreement and who will operate recreation, arts and cultural, or environmental programming open to the public.
Radiation from glow-in-the-dark radium paint the Navy used on cockpit dials was detected in Building 2 last year. But the Navy has completed a cleanup, Fraser said. The site is in three historic-preservation districts, which will add to the cost.
Proposals are due June 3, and Parks plans to announce a winner Aug. 19. The resulting lease or agreement will need City Council approval.
Besides Arena Sports, Parks tenants include The Mountaineers, Cascade Bicycle Club and Seattle Waldorf School’s high school. Parks, the UW and Solid Ground, a nonprofit that provides housing in Magnuson Park for formerly homeless families and individuals, have together invested more than $100 million in improvements.
Representatives of Next Step Archery, which has expressed interest in Building 2 and possibly sharing it with lacrosse programming, didn’t return a request for comment.
Julianna Ross, executive director of Sand Point Arts and Cultural Exchange (SPACE), an arts nonprofit in the park, said she believes film production is the right choice.
She said much of Magnuson is already sports-focused. The park has outdoor athletic fields, a tennis center and Arena Sports, with soccer, basketball and a gym.
Less space is devoted to the arts. SPACE runs 32 artist studios and a gallery.
“People come to the park after not being here in a while and are astounded by how it’s become an athletic complex and nothing more,” Ross said. “Building 2 has long been envisioned as a soundstage. The whole film community is rallying around that.”
Ross said the larger hangar could house big-time productions, while the smaller one could be reserved for independent films and for training local youth.
Loren Hill, who plays Ultimate Frisbee in Magnuson and sits on the park’s advisory committee, said Building 2 should house both recreation and arts programming.
Hill said his main concern is Parks making sure all kinds of people have access to whatever the structure becomes, something that might be difficult with a soundstage.
Fraser said Parks is encouraging potential Building 2 users to work together.
“Because there’s so much space in the building and so much capital needed,” she said. “To collaborate might be more doable and better for the public.”