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Owner of children's therapy clinic says possible Sound Transit site would be 'devastating'
Note: The public hearing for Sound Transit's Operations and Maintenance Satellite Facility, held Thursday evening at the Bellevue Coast Hotel, came after press deadline; The Reporter was given an advance copy of Andrea Duffield's planned statement to Sound Transit.
The owner of a children's therapy clinic in the Bel-Red corridor testified before Sound Transit Thursday, stating that one of the possible sites for the organization's Operations and Maintenance Satellite Facility would be "devastating" to their ability to work with developmentally challenged children. Development on the site along Northeast 20th Street would displace MOSAIC Children's Therapy Clinic and 100 other businesses.
Andrea Duffield is the owner and president of MOSAIC. The clinic — one of two pediatric centers in the company's trinity of offices in the Greater Seattle Metro area — provides behavioral intervention for children on the autism spectrum, as well as physical, speech and occupational therapies. Services include aquatic therapy sessions, nutrition assessments and behavioral "boot camps."
Duffield's company accepts Medicaid clients, a feature she said is rare among private providers and makes MOSAIC a crucial institution for its clients.
"MOSAIC is the only private comprehensive therapy clinic in the greater Seattle area providing this depth and breadth of services from birth through adulthood," Duffield said at the public hearing. "We are unique for our families because we have created a model that allows them to come to one place and have a true team, a family centered approach to meeting their child's needs."
Sound Transit continues to work toward Phase 2 extensions of its Light Rail system, including East Link light rail, to be completed in 2023. The expansion will expand Sound's fleet of vehicles nearly threefold, necessitating a second station for their upkeep. The satellite facility is scheduled for completion in 2020 to accommodate the influx of additional trains.
The agency is considering three potential sites for the satellite facility, each leaning on the Bel-Red area in some capacity. The first, south of Scriber Lake Park in Lynnwood, would require storage tracks on the old BNSF Railway line in Bellevue. The second would be located at the old International Paper facility along 120th Avenue Northeast, purchased by Sound Transit for $23,125,000 in June 2013. The third site, south of state Route 520, would occupy a block of land including Plaza 520.
Each site presents its own set of problems. The south 520 site would displace MOSAIC and 100 other Bel-Red businesses. Bellevue city councilmembers have told Sound Transit placement on the International Paper site would harm development of the future Spring District. Meanwhile, the Edmonds School District has standing plans for its own facility improvements at the potential Lynnwood site.
But Duffield said it would be "very challenging" to find another location comparable to MOSAIC's current home.
The clinic opened in 2003 and quickly outgrew its original space. Duffield identified Plaza 520 as an ideal location early in their search, but had to wait years before space became available, she said in an interview Tuesday.
The location includes a number of features that make it ideal for the business's purposes, Duffield said. It's large, with capacity to expand. It's close to the highway, yet shielded from highway noises. The parking lot contains children who might escape, yet appears open because of surrounding greenery. An adjacent creek provides a calming effect for clients with autism.
Harsch Investment Properties was willing to work with the business on adding improvements to the space, such as "floating" floors with triple the padding underneath the wood.
Robert Aigner, a senior vice president with Harsch, said officials of the company were aware in 2007 their Plaza was on Sound Transit's long list of potential sites for the satellite facility. Aigner contacted the agency every 3- to 6 months for updates, he said, until he heard about the purchase of the International Paper building. They believed they were in the clear until Plaza 520 appeared on a shorter list of six potential sites. "Sound Transit did not do a very good job of communicating with people who might be affected," he said.
Duffield said relocation assistance packages that have been described to her wouldn't come close to the cost of both moving and recreating the environment she has in Plaza 520. If MOSAIC did have to move, they might no longer be able to afford to take on Medicaid patients, she said.