After hiccup, BoT approves PacMed sublease

by Reuven Pinnata | Staff Writer

State and college officials plan to sublease the Seattle Pacific Tower, also known as the PacMed building, to Seattle Central Community College for the expansion of its Allied Health Programs. Last year, after a 90-day due diligence review, the Pacific Hotel Preservation and Development Authority agreed to sign the lease with the state Department of Commerce, and the task was left to Seattle Community Colleges Board of Trustees to authorize the move.

A closed meeting was scheduled for January 6, but the Board revised the agenda, opened the meeting to the public, and failed to give notice to the media of the change. The state’s open meetings laws require, according to Laurel Holliday, advocate for open public meetings and records and former South Seattle Community College instructor, that the media, citizens, and students involved be properly notified whenever there is an open meeting. Consequently, the vote which took place on Jan. 6 was rendered void.

11 days later, the deal went through. “The Board authorized the Chancellor to go ahead” with the sublease at its January 16 meeting, according to Director of Communications Susan Kostick.

The deal provides many benefits for students at SCCC’s Allied Health Programs.  The programs will occupy five floors of the PacMed building, and its location on First Hill will give them convenient access to internships at nearby health care providers. Kostick points out that the building will accommodate community healthcare providers, among them the Pacific Medical Group, and South Seattle Community College is planning to open health care programs which will occupy five floors.

With 74, 000 employees, healthcare has become a vital industry in Seattle, Kostick says, and it is predicted that there will be 23, 800 job openings over the next six years. With the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) increasing demand for healthcare professionals, the move to expand SCCC’s Allied Health Programs into the PacMed building will benefit students who aspire to become healthcare professionals. As Frank Chopp, a member of the Washington House of Representatives who has championed this idea since its inception, has observed, more people will receive health insurance, and this calls for more healthcare providers. SCCC is also in the process of gaining approval to open two new healthcare programs: Bachelor of Science in Nursing and Bachelor of Applied Science in Allied Health. These are designed to be four-year programs, so students will not have to pursue their degree in four-year universities. The additional space will accommodate the rising number of students.

The Department of Commerce has been allocated $20 million in state money to renovate the PacMed building, which has remained unoccupied since Amazon moved out in 2011. Another $4.5 million from the state will be used to cover SCCC’s lease and the operational cost for the first two years. After that, according to Kostick, SCCC will pay for the operating cost of its Allied Health Programs, while “[t]he cost of the rent [during the 30 year lease] is covered by an allocation from the state.”

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