Big step for Cornish College — it's adding dorms for the first time
Cornish College of the Arts has leased two 1950s Denny Triangle hotels from Clise Properties and is converting them into its first residence halls.
Seattle Times business reporter
Add another ingredient to the mix in Seattle's rapidly changing Denny Triangle neighborhood:
Cornish College of the Arts has leased two low-rise 1950s motels a few blocks from its campus center and is converting them into housing for up to one-third of its 800 students.
The former Eighth Avenue Inn, at Eighth and Bell Street, and Days Inn Town Center, at Seventh Avenue and Blanchard Street, are the first residence halls in Cornish's 95-year history. Most freshmen enrolling this fall will be required to live in them, a policy many other private colleges embrace.
Move-in day is Aug. 30.
"As of this year we are a residential college," said Jerry Hekkel, dean of student affairs. "It's going to change this whole community — and the sense of community."
For the first time, he said, students at the four-year college of visual and performing arts will be living as well as learning together, getting to know people in other disciplines, breaking down departmental barriers.
They'll also be eating together: Dorm residents must buy meal plans at an expanded college café in the campus center.
Cornish has signed 10-year leases, with options to renew or purchase, said Chief Financial Officer Jeff Riddell.
The two properties made up about 10 percent of the 13-acre collection of Denny Triangle real estate that longtime owner Clise Properties put up for sale in 2007, attracting international attention.
Clise spoke of a master-planned, mixed-use high-rise community on the scale of New York's Rockefeller Center.
The company received offers topping $600 million. But it pulled the properties off the market last year, saying the time wasn't right.
Clise Properties president Richard Stevenson said the lease to Cornish doesn't mean Clise's long-term vision for its Denny Triangle holdings is dead. "Ultimately, the highest and best use for those properties is something other than those hotels," he said.
"But given the current environment, we don't see the entire assemblage being developed for quite some time."
There's a provision in the lease with Cornish that would let Clise terminate it early — at considerable expense, and with much advance notice to the college — if a great redevelopment opportunity surfaces, Stevenson said.
But for now, he added, the company is delighted to have Cornish as a tenant.
Cornish is happy, too. Providing student housing has been a goal since the college moved most of its programs to newly acquired buildings in the Denny Triangle from scattered locations on Capitol Hill six years ago, Riddell said.
The arrival of the college was just part of the once-moribund neighborhood's transformation. New condos, apartments, office buildings, restaurants and stores — including a Whole Foods — dot the area.
More projects have been proposed to take advantage of recent city zoning changes allowing towers of up to 40 stories, although the economy has put most on hold.
Cornish has purchased or has options on several more properties in the neighborhood, and is raising money for more buildings.
Students have been agitating for housing for years, Hekkel said. But the most enthusiastic response to the new dorms has come from parents of incoming freshmen.
During orientation programs this summer, he said, several have told him their children probably wouldn't have enrolled at Cornish but for the residence halls.
They should help recruitment and retention, Hekkel said; research indicates students who start off living on campus generally do better.
The college is spending more than $1 million this summer renovating and furnishing the old three- and four-story motels, Riddell said. They'll have the usual dorm accouterments — reception desks, TV lounges, coin-operated washers and dryers, communal kitchens, 24-hour security and a staff of resident assistants — as well as some custom features, such as practice rooms for musicians.
The price tag for the double rooms: $5,900 per student for the school year, more than the University of Washington and Seattle University charge for most of their doubles.
But Cornish's former motel rooms feel bigger than most dorm rooms. Each has a private bath, and at least one has a view of the Space Needle.
Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or email@example.com
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