“As we look at how do you make Center City more family-friendly, and how do you get more families down here, people always say a school,” Sugimura said.
But the school district won’t be able to afford land in those areas, she said.
DPD has been talking to interested neighborhood groups in Belltown for the past year about the school. Recently, Sugimura said, developers from Belltown and South Lake Union have asked DPD about incentives to include a school in a project.
There’s one incentive already on the books: excluding certain square footage from Floor Area Ratio calculations. Excluding school square footage from calculations would let a developer build bigger if they include a school. That tool was used to encourage downtown department store development decades ago.
What about an FAR bonus? Like the ones developers get for including affordable housing in their plans? Sugimura said that’s a possibility, but it would need council and mayoral approval.
Sugimura said the school wouldn’t be a traditional one-story building with playing fields in the back. Maybe it could be perched atop a tall building or housed in the lower floors of a condo complex, with kids taking recess at the Olympic Sculpture Park.
The city wants to work it so kids who don’t live downtown could go there too, traveling to school with their commuter parents and cutting drive times. Moms and dads could help out the school on their lunch breaks, and businesspeople could volunteer for tutoring before work.
“It definitely is going to be a challenge getting it moving, but we have been really pleased with the people who have expressed an interest in working with us,” Sugimura said.
Based on Seattle school district maps, students now living in Belltown would go to T.T. Minor Elementary on Capitol Hill and students living in South Lake Union would go to Stevens Elementary, also on Capitol Hill. TOPS at Seward is an alternative K-8 public school in Eastlake and Lowell Elementary, on Mercer Street, offers special education and advanced placement classes.