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Port Commission Approves 60-Year Lease for Northern State Campus


Port Commission Approves 60-Year Lease for Northern State Campus

Burlington - The Port of Skagit and the state Department of Enterprise Services have entered into the first phase of several anticipated phases for transition of the 225-acre North Cascades Gateway Center campus to local control.

Beginning January 2016, the state will enter into a 60-year lease with the Port of Skagit to redevelop the site. The 2015 Washington Legislature granted Enterprise Services authority to pursue leases for the property for up to 60 years.

State Sen. Kirk Pearson, whose 39th district includes most of Skagit and Snohomish as well as the northeast corner of King county, was instrumental in passing the measure allowing the long-term lease for the property.

Sen. Pearson said: “It is amazing to realize the former Northern State Hospital campus has the potential to become a major local employer, just as it was more than a century ago. The support of the Legislature and passing Senate Bill 5887 was only the beginning of a collaborative process to find alternative uses for the property. Together, we have paved the way for a world-class green technology center that will create good local jobs.”

The center, formerly the Northern State Hospital campus, is a state-owned property located in the City of Sedro-Woolley. Since the hospital closed in 1973, the site remained underutilized.


Lease designed to boost local, regional economy

The partnership completes a significant step forward in an ongoing effort to turn the historic campus into a local and regional economic engine. The initial lease was approved during a regular meeting of the Port commission on Tuesday, Dec. 8.

Under the lease, the Port will begin leasing the campus property from the state in planned phases to ensure a smooth transition over time. The initial lease agreement for 131.5 acres makes up more than 50 percent of the property.  Redevelopment will begin on about 37 acres in the southern area of the campus. The remaining 94.5 acres encompasses peripheral open space areas for activities such as parking and staging construction equipment as well as wetlands, trails and other areas that are protected from development.


Community, local and state partnership critical to forging agreement

The Port of Skagit, City of Sedro-Woolley, Skagit County and the state have been working in close partnership since November 2013. The partners also have worked extensively with the local community to explore its interests in future opportunities for the campus – including evaluating options for redevelopment and eventual transfer of the property from state to local control.  

Port of Skagit Executive Director Patsy Martin said: “The Port is proud to partner with the State to begin redevelopment of the historic property. This collaborative planning process between the State and local agencies represents the very best in ‘good government.’”


Examining public access opportunities, protecting historic buildings

When the hospital was in operation, the site was open to the public and fully integrated into the economy and the social fabric of greater Sedro-Woolley.

The state and Port recognize the local community’s vision for increased public access to the property. The partners willdevelop a plan to re-open the campus to allow public access to some as yet unspecified areas of the property while honoring existing leases.

The Port will use federal standards to prioritize the revitalization of selected structures on the property. Many are a contributing part of the historic district listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  The Port anticipates subleasing the property to Janicki Bioenergy to begin research and development of its OmniProcessor, a machine that can convert human waste into potable water and electricity.

Enterprise Services Director Chris Liu said: “This is an exciting milestone and we could not have gotten this far without working hand in hand with the Port and all of our local partners. This agreement should benefit the local community, the state and the entire Pacific Northwest in ways we can only begin to imagine.”

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 state Department of Social and Health Services.

Port of Skagit Commission President Bill Shuler said: “The Port of Skagit commissioners and staff have worked hard on this project for at least four years, and some of us much longer.  We still have a long way to go but we’ve come a long way. I’ve been involved in public service for many years and I have never seen such collaborative partnerships between state and local agencies. Revitalizing the Northern State campus will boost our local economy and bring more good paying jobs to our local community and that is something we can all celebrate.”

If you are a reporter seeking information about the Port of Skagit, please call Andrew Entrikin, community outreach administrator, at 360-757-0011 or email