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Guest opinion
Planning the Carnegie Building’s future

Since 2005, the Snohomish Carnegie Foundation has partnered with the city, through authorization from City Council, to study uses and the feasibility of rehabilitating the Carnegie Building and grounds. This discussion began in July 2002. The City Council held a special meeting inviting interested parties to present ideas as to how the city could best use our oldest publicly owned building. The reason for the discussion was that our Carnegie Building was to be vacated by the Snohomish Library in 2003, having outgrown the Carnegie. A case was presented by the Snohomish Carnegie Preservation Council that the building be restored, continue as publicly owned and used for community purposes.
In 2004, City Council voted unanimously to pursue this idea, asking the committee to work with city staff to seek proposals as to feasibility of restoration — did the Carnegie have the “structural bones” for such a restoration?  A master plan, presented to council in 2005, supported moving forward with the restoration and preservation of this treasured community asset.
With that, the Snohomish Carnegie Foundation was formed with the vision of raising funds to restore the Carnegie. A business plan was developed over the next year presenting examples of how the community could utilize the Carnegie. A professional community survey was commissioned.
The survey identified strong interest and support to utilize the Carnegie as an asset that could be shared by the community.
In 2007 and 2008, a professional cost study was done to determine whether the annex should remain or be removed. The cost to repair the annex was estimated to be cost-prohibitive at $400,000. Based on the independent information obtained, the City Council voted unanimously to remove the annex, rehabilitate the Carnegie and restore the grounds, providing a much-needed park setting in our historic business district.
As our community began to recover from the Great Recession, a revised master plan was commissioned in 2011 and was approved by council that places an addition on the east side of the Carnegie. This allows for a secondary entry at street level, including a lobby, stairway and elevator to the main floor. This revision provides for complete ADA compliance and additional space for community events.
In 2012, the foundation partnered with the city, applying for a FEMA grant to seismically retrofit
the building, allowing for necessary life safety measures in the event of an earthquake. This work was completed in 2013. A new tile roof was placed on the building with new soffits. While the work done is not immediately evident, this nearly $1 million grant expenditure was vital in order to go forward with rehabilitation. The foundation provided $46,125 to contribute to the development of this grant.
By all accounts, this has been a long and enduring process. Over the past decade, the original plan has seen significant improvement. Our foundation has contributed in excess of $100,000 in combined monetary contributions and volunteer hours.
In a June workshop, the city staff and the foundation plan to submit a modified proposal to City Council.
The proposal continues the plan to rehabilitate the Carnegie, remove the annex and restore the grounds. The addition on the east side will be downsized and modified to reflect substantial cost savings. The foundation will partner in the project by pledging to raise funds for the restoration of the formal front entryway and work in every way to assist in furthering the community’s efforts to bring our city’s Carnegie Building and grounds back to being the jewel of our downtown where our historic business and residential districts meet.

Melody Clemans is the president of the Snohomish Carnegie Foundation. 

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