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City of Seattle

September 16, 2:28 PM click here to comment > 2

More on MOHAI

On June 22, 2010, MOHAI and city staff reached a tentative agreement that MOHAI would receive $7 million from the sale of the city-owned land on which their building currently sits. Shortly after, MOHAI announced that they had successfully negotiated the sale of their city-owned building to the state for $40 million, $30.5 million more than anticipated. The mayor forwarded his legislation to Council approving the $40 million for MOHAI, but leaving the question of proceeds from the future land sale to a later date.

“We are facing a $67 million deficit,” said Mayor Mike McGinn. “The question before the City Council is this: now that MOHAI has received $40 million from the State for the sale of the city-owned building, $30.5 million more than expected, does it make sense to give them an additional $7 million of tax payer dollars? At a time of very difficult cuts to basic human services, community centers and libraries, it doesn’t make sense for one nonprofit to get all it can out of the city.”

Carl Marquardt, McGinn’s legal counsel, recently posted about this issue on our blog. You can read his walk through of the issue HERE:

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Posted by: Aaron Pickus, Spokesperson


Comment from Jon Flora
Time September 16, 2010 at 4:58 pm

Dear Mr. Mayor and staff:

Your action to try to reverse course on your agreement with MOHAI caused me to (a) be glad I no longer live or work in Seattle and (b) make a few calls to see if it might be possible to get MOHAI to consider moving to Tacoma where they would be more than welcome. I spent eights years earlier in this decade working as a volunteer on the South Lake Union project including doing some of the spade work that brought the Kreielsheimer Foundation’s million dollar grant for the historic ship’s wharf. Throughout the experience, the City of Seattle and the Parks Department presented more obstacles than help. When I read of your desire to renege on the agreement, I considered it one more example of a city government seemingly incapable of being an effective and trustworthy partner. I can appreciate your need to raise new revenue but no one apparently told you how much it would cost to have the Armory building sit vacant with no tenant in sight. It’s a unique structure that could bleed you dry. While it sounds like the Council has now approved the agreement against your wishes, it’s important for you to remember that other communities would welcome MOHAI, its collections, programs and financial resources if you don’t believe they’re important to Seattle.

I trust this experience will cause you to develop a greater appreciation for the history and heritage of this area.

Comment from Aaron Pickus, Assistant Communications Director
Time September 19, 2010 at 9:29 am

Mr. Flora,

Thank you for taking the time to post on our blog. We also appreciate MOHAI, and we definitely would not want them to move to Tacoma.

The cost of renovating the Armory is $30 million. MOHAI will receive $40 million from the sale of the City-owned building at Montlake, and so the renovation costs are covered. Going forward, the City will pay $300,000 per year to MOHAI for the 55-year term of the lease (rather than collect rent). Whatever else happens, the City will be supporting MOHAI.

As you know, the question before Council is whether to amend prior legislation to give MOHAI an additional $7 million from the future sale of City-owned land. Given that MOHAI has already received much more than the City anticipated, and given the budget climate, we have asked Council not to take that additional step at this time. It is ultimately their decision.

Thanks again for your interest in this issue, and please feel free to follow up if you would like to discuss further.