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Port Seeks Local Control for Northern State Campus

The Port of Skagit has submitted a proposal to the state Department of Enterprise Services to begin a phased transition of the former Northern State Hospital campus near Sedro-Woolley to local control.

Submission of the proposal completes a significant step in an ongoing effort to turn the historic Northern State campus into a local and regional economic engine. The proposal was approved during a special meeting of the port commission on Tuesday, July 21.

The Port of Skagit, City of Sedro-Woolley and Skagit County are partnering in the effort to evaluate options for redevelopment of the campus and seek its eventual transfer from the State of Washington to local governments.

Northern State Hospital opened in 1909 to provide high-quality patient care for the mentally ill. The hospital closed in 1973, and the agricultural land associated with it was subsequently turned over to Skagit County for recreational usage. The facility was reopened on a small scale in 1978 as a Multi-Service Center for the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Social and Health Services. The State of Washington currently owns the 225-acre hospital campus, which is managed by the state Department of Enterprise Services and is now known as North Cascades Gateway Center.

It is anticipated the state will need approximately three months to review the proposal.

If the state accepts the proposal, the port will begin leasing sections of the property from the state in planned phases to honor the current leases and provide for a smooth transition over time for the entities on site. Beginning in the southern area, the port’s control will expand to include the center core, northern area, and finally the peripheral open space until the entire property is under local control.

“Realizing the transformation of this significant property through the collaborative planning process between the State and local agencies represents the very best in ‘good government’,” said Port of Skagit Executive Director Patsy Martin.

When the hospital was in operation, the site was open to the public and fully integrated into the economy and the social fiber of greater Sedro-Woolley. The proposal includes an opportunity to re-open the campus to the public.

The proposal also anticipates stewardship of the overall property will be enhanced as the transition occurs, and the Port will utilize federal standards for treatment of Historic Properties to prioritize the revitalization of selected structures on the property. The difference in cost between revitalization and new construction, as outlined in the proposal, is referred to as the ‘preservation margin’. The cost to rehabilitate the structures is far too great for any one entity. Thus, the redevelopment of the site is dependent on the willingness of a public-private partnership.

A memorandum of understanding has been established between the Port and Janicki Bioenergy regarding future revitalization of the property and structures.

If the Port acquires a lease agreement for the Northern State property from DES, it anticipates to sublease sections of the property to Janicki to begin development of fabrication facilities for its OmniProcessor, a machine that can convert human waste into water and electricity.

Janicki has proposed to subsequently refurbish historically significant buildings and develop the site into a technology research development campus for the OmniProcessor and other innovative sanitation technologies. Gradual expansion into the historic parts of the property will be dependent on business needs.

“The Janicki proposal has the potential to give an economic lift to the region and state through an increased tax base, and the phased approach spreads and balances the risk to the port, other local governments, the private sector and the state,” said Port Commissioner Bill Shuler, president of the Port commission. “Harnessing the power of the local community and private sector will ensure appropriate revitalization of the property, thus generating good jobs, commerce, and economic activity.”

If you are a reporter seeking information about the Port of Skagit, please call Linda Tyler, Community Outreach Administrator, at 360-757-0011 or email