A state Senate candidate from Federal Way wants to explore bringing a four-year college to the city’s soon-to-be-empty Weyerhaeuser campus.
The timber company announced Tuesday it would move its headquarters from Federal Way to Seattle’s Pioneer Square in 2016, uprooting about 800 local jobs. It plans to market its building and more than 400 acres of surrounding land east of Interstate 5 to developers.
Democrat Shari Song said local leaders should be looking at how to replace those jobs and what to do with the campus.
If elected, she said she would push for a study of the feasibility of building a branch campus there for a state university like Washington State University.
She noted WSU four-year branch campuses in Spokane, the Tri-Cities, Vancouver and Everett and University of Washington campuses in Bothell and Tacoma.
“Snohomish County finally got their four-year degree option when WSU Everett opened,” Song said in a statement. “Now it should be South King County’s turn. Our population is expanding. The demand is here. We need leaders who will fight for expanding higher education opportunities close to home.”
The Federal Way City Council has approved an initiative to explore attracting a college satellite campus to the city of more than 92,000.
Officials are exploring all options for a location, said Mayor Jim Ferrell’s chief of staff, Brian Wilson.
Wilson said he hadn’t previously heard the Weyerhaeuser site mentioned as a possibility. City Councilwoman Kelly Maloney said the site was under discussion informally among people working on the initiative as something to explore if Weyerhaeuser were to leave.
Song’s Republican opponent, former Rep. Mark Miloscia of Federal Way, was critical of Song’s statement. He said she was taking credit for an idea that local leaders have been working on for two years.
Miloscia called a local college a “wonderful idea” but was noncommittal about locating it at the Weyerhaeuser site, saying he wanted to “find the best possible solution for the 430 acres being vacated. However, we need not just public investment but also private sector development.”
Wilson said the phones at City Hall have been ringing off the hook since the company announced it would leave. “It goes without saying there are going to be lots of people who have an opinion and want to weigh in on what that future may look like, and we’re certainly listening to that,” he said.