Senior center director makes case to MLT council for Ballinge Clubhouse rental

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Mike Cooper speaks to the Mountlake Terrace City Council Monday night.
Mike Cooper speaks to the Mountlake Terrace City Council Monday night.

After months of trying to hammer out an agreement with the city, Mountlake Terrace Senior Center Executive Director Mike Cooper took his plea directly to the City Council Monday, asking that the senior group to be given the opportunity to move into and manage the Ballinger Clubhouse.

Cooper spoke for 25 minutes about the senior center’s history, future goals, potential use for the clubhouse facility, and financial plan to operate at the site.

The city council is scheduled to discuss the potential agreement between the city and the senior group at its Oct. 31 work/study session; a vote to finalize the agreement could be taken at the council’s Nov. 4 meeting.

The 6,800-square foot Ballinger Clubhouse, located at 23000 Lakeview Drive on the grounds of the new Ballinger Park in Mountlake Terrace, is owned by the city, but city officials are seeking someone to take over management of the facility. The building had previously been operated by Hardy Golf Inc. before the husband-wife team of Tyrone and Carol Hardy ended their relationship with the city in November 2012.

The Mountlake Terrace Senior Center has been talking with the City of Mountlake Terrace since June 2013 about taking over clubhouse operations, ever since the senior group was selected over a second applicant, an Edmonds caterer. “I think it’s going to happen,” Cooper said. “It’s just a question as to if there will be an alternative proposal or not.”

The senior center would not only manage the building, but would also move its offices and programs to the clubhouse.

The Ballinger Lake Clubhouse.
The Ballinger Lake Clubhouse.

The current plan is to have the senior center lease the building at a cost of $1,500 per month, plus pay utility costs for the facility, which are approximately $1,400 a month, Cooper explained. The senior group currently leases 800 square feet of office and program space from Bethesda Lutheran Church in Mountlake Terrace at a cost of $625 per month in rent and utilities.

Some have speculated that the city has been somewhat hesitant to complete the agreement with the senior center because the group would not have the funds necessary to meet clubhouse rental costs. But Cooper laid out his case that the senior center would be able to operate in the black during its first year at the facility. “In today’s numbers, real numbers, and adding in the user fees, our projected revenue is about $6,000 a year higher than our projected expenses,” Cooper told the city council. “So, in a perfect world, we’ll have a surplus at the end of 2014 of $6,000.”

The senior center currently operates on funds collected from membership fees, income from programs and special events, and money collected through fundraisers and grants. Cooper believes the group could afford the higher rent and utility costs at the Ballinger Clubhouse from a slight increase in membership and program income, but primarily from $35,040 of revenue raised from renting out the facility’s ballroom and proposed café areas.

Cooper said the seniors would bring in $30,000 per year from renting the clubhouse’s Lakeview Room to parties, wedding receptions, corporate events and other users – which is “the historical rental (figure) of that room” – plus $5,040 a year from renting a proposed kitchen/café area, describing both estimates as “very conservative numbers.”

The senior center would also seek additional income from special events, commercial and foundation grants, private and business donors, and estate giving.

— Story and photos by Doug Petrowski

10 COMMENTS

  1. While the Ballinger Clubhouse will function well as a senior center, I still see it as unfortunate that we couldn’t find a solution to keep the Senior Center in the Town Center neighborhood. With the increased development in the neighborhood, especially the assisted living facility, a senior center downtown would make it much easier for more seniors with limited mobility to participate in activities. Fortunately, once the Main Street project and the Lakeview Trail are built there will be a nice, safe route for people to take from downtown to Lake Ballinger, though a mile and a half might be a bit much for some. The Ballinger clubhouse will be great for those seniors living in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood.

  2. While the Ballinger Clubhouse will function well as a senior center, I still see it as unfortunate that we couldn’t find a solution to keep the Senior Center in the Town Center neighborhood. With the increased development in the neighborhood, especially the assisted living facility, a senior center downtown would make it much easier for more seniors with limited mobility to participate in activities. Fortunately, once the Main Street project and the Lakeview Trail are built there will be a nice, safe route for people to take from downtown to Lake Ballinger, though a mile and a half might be a bit much for some. The Ballinger clubhouse will be great for those seniors living in the Lake Ballinger neighborhood.

  3. While Dustin makes some good points, it is important understand that few older adults come to the senior center by walking. A recent survey of people coming to the current center either ride transit, drive or car pool. Without a move to a facility that will allow for growth, more aging adults will choose centers like Shoreline, North shore and Edmonds to seek out activities we do not offer on site. The Ballinger Clubhouse is served well by Community Transit and we are planning for additional transportation options provided by our center. We have a good relationship with current assisted living and retirement communities and look forward to having partnerships with the new ones. They typically have their own vans and transport people to the senior center if requested. The Mountlake Terrace Community Senior Center @ Ballinger will be good for all 4,000 older adults in our community.

  4. I was an early adopter of the Clubhouse as potential Senior Center after I heard it suggested by other seniors. That was back in February when the smart folks supporting the Civic Center concept tried to make the idea out to be lunacy. Now it is accepted wisdom.

    Unfortunately for taxpayers there is much intervening reality to deal with, most importantly the reality that General Fund revenues remain in the tank. It is from that revenue stream which the $300,000 annually to pay back past rent and the $500,000 soon to be due annually for current rent must come. Our General Fund has never borne that burden before. With revenues still weak now is no time to start.

    That is why I advocate using the Clubhouse and other city-owned spacea as well as modulars if necessary for a temporary city hall. Like the Senior Center before it, I am borrowing the idea from other citizens, but it is a good one. Saving $500,000 per year until council can come up with a reasonable bond proposition saves that money to fund other city services. Moving the Seniors into that space can wait until we have found an economical solution to our need for a city hall.

  5. The ‘historical’ figure of clubhouse ballroom rents was in an era when there was not a brand-new, Town Center-located brewery/restaurant also offering an events room, complete with alcohol service, as there will be in early 2014. Diamond Knot no doubt expects their events room to be popular. It’s competition to the clubhouse ballroom, and I have to wonder if that was factored into the presentation before the City Council.

    ‘Historical’ and ‘perfect world’ numbers are not realistic. Present-day reality intrudes, unfortunately.

    I also have to wonder where the money comes from to remodel the proposed cafe area, if it isn’t already a turnkey layout. Will that be the $6,000 perfect world profit plowed back into the building before it’s earned, in order to pay for part of the remodel? Is the City going to cough that up? If there is no cafe, does the Senior Center make their numbers?

    It may very well be that the City’s best option is to turn the clubhouse over to the senior group to manage, utilize, and with which to do the best they can in recouping expenses via rentals. There is a carrying cost to an owned building, after all, even if the building is shuttered. Should the City elect to hand the property to the seniors, it should be lost on no one that the proposed base rent of $18,000 per year is only $2.64/sq ft/yr. It’s a huge de facto subsidy to the seniors group. Let’s at least recognize that reality rather than fool ourselves that the clubhouse will be financially sustainable without ongoing City financial support, whether or not the Senior Center is actually able to pay the rent they claim they can pay should their perfect world scenario materialize.

  6. Dustin DeKoekkoek the same could be said if the Senior Center would be placed in any other neighborhood. It’s great for those that live close and a bit more of a challenge for those that don’t. Most assisted living and senior housing facilities have buses/vans that can transport their residents. Where ever the Senior Center is located it will be better than where they are now.

  7. Margaret, I absolutely agree with you in that the existing facility is not ideal. I’m just looking at where the assisted living/senior living facilities are in the city and what might be the most convenient location so people don’t have to rely on others for transportation. But now that you mentioned it, if transportation is more likely to be provided at those facilities, Ballinger could be a better location because it’s walkable for lots of people right across the street who may not have the transportation options that those in the senior living facilities do.

  8. May I recommend Robert Kramer as financial/real estate consultant to the city. He seems to understand and explain the underlying real estate economics of the Clubhouse better than anyone assocaited with the city or the Seniors.

    If our realistic expectations are to make very little if anything off the building, we could at least use it to avoid a known cost – the rent for city hall.

  9. It is clear that each of the above gentlemen raise good points. The Clubhouse could be walkable from city center (but most robust seniors drive), the Diamond Brewery folks are hoping to step into the gap of economic reality that has prevented the city from achieving its civic center plan (which City Manager Caulfield told us in August may stretch up to another ten years), and the need to pay about double for the current city hall facility (current rent and nearly 60 % of the unpaid rent of the last 5 years). Maybe using the facilities as partial city hall isn’t so crazy as I first thought. It certainly would be a grand subsidy for the Senior Center to give them rental management on such tenuous prospects.

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