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Federal panel recommends closure and sale of Seattle National Archives facility

The National Archives in Seattle. (Feliks Banel, KIRO Radio)

A federal panel is recommending closure and sale of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) facility in Seattle’s Sand Point neighborhood. If the closure goes through, the research services and historic materials currently held there would be moved to facilities in Missouri and California.

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In a report submitted to the Office of Management and Budget in late December, the Public Buildings Reform Board identified the Seattle facility, known as the Federal Archives and Records Center or “FARC,” as a “High Value Asset” that should be sold to generate revenue for the federal government.

This report is a result of the 2016 Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act (or “FASTA”), which created the Public Buildings Reform Board and which appears to be looking at federal real estate and federal facilities in a manner not unlike military bases are often analyzed and recommended for closure.

The findings for Seattle’s NARA facility stated, in part:

The FARC does not meet NARA’s long‐term storage needs. NARA may require a short‐term occupancy agreement to prepare alternate space and to relocate its records … NARA will begin its relocation project upon full Office of Management and Budget approval of this disposition and will have subsequent discussions with its employees. Records will be relocated to NARA facilities in Kansas City, Missouri; archival records will be relocated to a NARA facility in Riverside, California, within which some renovation may be required to house the archives.

Seattle’s hot real estate market and demand for housing in what’s a desirable residential neighborhood were likely part of the analysis and the decision to recommend closure and sale.

“Relocating FARC will make 10‐acres of highly valuable land available, likely for residential housing, in the Hawthorne Hills neighborhood just to the west of Lake Washington in the Puget Sound region of Washington,” the report reads.

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However, there’s also no question that the facility and its archival holdings are invaluable in that specific location for researchers associated with the University of Washington, and with other colleges around the Puget Sound area – not to mention amateur historians, genealogists, and others whose research benefits from ready access to government archives.

Local staff were unable to comment on the news, which apparently only reached Seattle a few days ago, and instead referred KIRO Radio to NARA’s national spokesperson John Valceanu, who has yet to respond. KIRO Radio has also reached out to U.S. Representative Pramila Jayapal’s office for comment, but have not yet heard back.

It’s unclear if the recommendations outlined in the report are final, or if local lawmakers and history enthusiasts will have any opportunity to influence the process and help keep the NARA facility in Seattle.

This is a developing story.

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