Exclusive: Grassroots preservation campaign saves Parkland School

May 10, 2024, 11:51 AM | Updated: 5:26 pm

Photo: Parkland residents gathered on the steps of the 1908 Parkland School Friday morning to celeb...

Parkland residents gathered on the steps of the 1908 Parkland School Friday morning to celebrate the sale of the historic building by Pacific Lutheran University to the non-profit Parkland Community Association to become a community center. (Photo courtesy of Ken Zick)

(Photo courtesy of Ken Zick)

Members of the Parkland Community Association announced live Friday morning on KIRO Newsradio that the not-for-profit group has officially assumed ownership of historic Parkland School in Pierce County.

“The big news is as of 5 p.m. yesterday,” Phil Edlund of the group said, “both Pacific Lutheran University and Parkland Community Association signed papers to close on the purchase and sale of the building to the Parkland Community Association.”

And as of this afternoon, the final funds will be wired into escrow,” Edlund continued. “And with the help of Pacific Lutheran University, this building is now Parkland Community Association’s to become a community center.”

As Edlund shared the breaking news live on the air to KIRO Newsradio listeners, he stood near the original front entrance of the 1908 structure. Nearby, a group of a dozen or so supporters of the grassroots campaign to save the school cheered as Edlund made the announcement.

More here: Parkland School catalyzes neighbors to support South Sound community

Parkland School was threatened with demolition in 2022 when Pacific Lutheran University (PLU), whose main campus is nearby, moved to sell the property — where Parkland School stands along State Route 7 — to developers. PLU had bought the old school from Franklin-Pierce School District in the 1980s, used it for a number of purposes, and leased it to other users.

Parkland residents organized an effective grassroots campaign, allied with the Parkland Community Association, spread their message through broadcast and social media and ultimately persuaded PLU to work with the community to find an alternate solution: to create a community center for Parkland at what is, essentially, the center of the community.

More fundraising to be done

Securing ownership is an incredible feat worthy of celebrating but there remains some serious work to do to raise more than $2 million and to ready the building for a variety of community purposes.

“While we’ve raised over $750,000, it can’t be overstated how much Pacific Lutheran University has been a partner with us in this,” Phil Edlund told KIRO Newsradio listeners Friday morning. “They have put up $2.1 million as an interest-free two-year promissory note, and we will need to make $1,050,000 payments twice over the next two years to pay this off.”

Edlund is not deterred by the work ahead and remains focused on the strengths of the Parkland Community Association’s agreement with PLU.

“It is an interest-free loan, and they are helping us,” Edlund said. “And so it’s up to us in the community to continue to help raise the funds to make this fully a reality.”

Wendy Freeman, another leader of the grassroots campaign and board member of the Parkland Community Association invited supporters and anyone interested to contribute to the effort. Freeman also invited the general public to take part in a celebration and fundraiser in Parkland on Friday afternoon.

“The school has been saved to serve the community, and we’re having a wonderful community event this evening,” Freeman told KIRO Newsradio listeners. “Please come and join us from 3 p.m. until 10 p.m. We’re having a celebration at the Parkland Denny’s and 15% of everything that comes in the door is going to be donated to the community center at Parkland School.”

Parkland Denny’s runs donation promotion

Freeman said that the Parkland Denny’s will run the same charitable promotion every Friday in May, through Friday, May 31, 2024.

More from Feliks Banel: Visiting Captain Vancouver’s grave in a tiny village near London

Phil Edlund is clearly thrilled that Parkland School has been saved. However, he won’t have much time for partying today.

“At 10 a.m., I am meeting with the fire sprinkler (and) fire alarm security alarm people to get a quote on getting the building monitored, because there are systems in the building that need to be changed over,” Edlund said.

Security? Check.

“We’ve already changed over all the utilities to our name as of today,” he continued. “And then at 1 p.m., we meet with a roofer to get a quote on getting the roof replaced. The local roofer is actually going for a grant to get at least all the materials donated.”

Roofing? Check.

“We have a local floor covering store down the street that will donate all the floor coverings for when we get to that stage,” he said.

Floor coverings? Check.

Next steps for Parkland School

However, Phil Edlund wasn’t quite finished with sharing his calendar just yet.

“And actually, today I meet with a prospective tenant that would like to rent space and move in here to be able to occupy office space and relocate their offices,” Edlund added. “And we have another tenant that (may) take the entire first floor that we’ll be meeting with later this week as well to firm that up.”

Possible tenants? Check.

But before all that, Edlund did make time to excuse himself for one brief moment of celebration at Parkland School: posing for a group photo with the neighbors who saved it, standing in the brilliant sunshine on the front steps for just a few moments, on the first morning of the first full day they can call Parkland School theirs.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, follow him on X here and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea or a question about Northwest history, please email Feliks here.

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Exclusive: Grassroots preservation campaign saves Parkland School