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Auburn preps for park; new college building on hold

Auburn received 7.15 acres of college-owned land, known as the Martin property, for a new park. The City begins work this spring on the new park. - Courtesy rendering
Auburn received 7.15 acres of college-owned land, known as the Martin property, for a new park. The City begins work this spring on the new park.
— image credit: Courtesy rendering

Green River Community College got from the City of Auburn four years ago the 8.97-acre Lea Hill Park property, on which it planned to build a new Trades and Industry building.

In exchange, Auburn received 7.15 acres of GRCC-owned land, known as the Martin property, for a new park.

The City begins work this spring on the new park.

But construction plans for GRCC's trades building have been put on hold, GRCC officials said this week.

"Unfortunately, the state budget crisis really ate into the capital money available for all the agencies," said Sam Ball, director of capital projects for college. "We were originally in the queue, before the economic downturn, for construction in 2011-2013. We could have been in construction now.

"But as much as two years ago, right after we submitted our request to the state for construction funds, we were notified that they were going to have to put that project on hold. At that time the hope was that maybe the state would get out of its budget crisis, and maybe we could have a 2013-2015 construction window. That's not going to be possible either. We've got our instructions for the 2013-15 capital budget, and there aren't any, or very few new projects being funded in this next round."

The current trades and industry building dates to the first years of the college. College officials say it is outdated and must be replaced.

The college uses Lea Hill Park to its north more than do the nearby residents, most often as a practice field for intercollegiate sports. But the tennis court is cracked, lacks nets, is well nigh unusable. The baseball diamond is in such poor shape for college ball that the Gators play their games at nearby Auburn Mountainview High School.

Three years ago officials declared that the park at South 320th Street and 124th Avenue was no longer serving the needs of the growing Lea Hill community.

The new park will be under joint GRCC and City ownership. The GRCC Foundation owned the three parcels of land. A home childcare facility and a house now occupy part of the site. The Foundation, which acquired the land a year before the agreement was struck, has donated its interest to GRCC. The college is to retain about 1.77 acres of the Martin property. It will keep the daycare facility.

Auburn acquired Lea Hill Park from King County in 2002 when the county was divesting itself of park land. The deed directs that the park property be used for park and recreation purposes forever, unless the City could get equal lands or facilities in exchange. The replacement lands or facilities must also be used for park or recreation purposes.

Since the Martin property is a bit smaller than Lea Hill Park, the agreement calls for the college to reimburse the City $1.5 million.

According to a memorandum of understanding between the City and GRCC, the City was to transfer ownership of the park to the college in exchange for both the Martin property and other improvements. An independent appraisal determined the respective values of the parcels. According to the MOU, the City and College are each to hold an equal, undivided interest in the new park.

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