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Pondering future growth and development, St. Mark’s receives major property gift

(Image: St. Mark’s)

The St. Nicholas building, north of the cathedral (Image: St. Mark’s)

By Jethro Swain

A major gift is helping an important Capitol Hill spiritual community shape the future of its 10th Ave E home.

This fall, Capitol Hill’s St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral was donated full ownership of the St. Nicholas school building by the Laura Ellen and Robert Muglia Family Foundation. The property is worth $8.4 million according to the latest county appraisal.

The St. Nicholas building, adjacent the church and purchased from the Cornish College of Arts in an LLC partnership by Saint Mark’s and the Muglia Foundation in 2003, is primarily used by two independent schools, the Bright Water Waldorf School and Gage Academy of Arts, but is also a hub for a variety of nonprofits in the community.

The foundation has now stepped aside and gifted full ownership of the property to St. Mark’s.

“It’s the kind of extraordinary gift to a Church that changes the life of the Church across generations, so we’re very grateful for it,” said the Dean and Rector of Saint Mark’s, Steve Thomason.

Thomason explained to CHS that the schools have put the spaces to good use and the church has used the building for some of its Sunday school classes and meeting spaces, there is hope for creating an even greater resource for nonprofits in the community.

“Saint Mark’s uses a portion of the building, but we also open those [spaces] up to other nonprofits that are everything from music nonprofits, to arts nonprofits, to social justice and outreach nonprofits and partners,” said Thomason.

CHS reported in September on a consultant’s recommendation to develop the property next to the church as multi-family residential housing.

At the depths of the pandemic, it also looked like Bright Water would be shutting down. But access to federal relief has reversed those plans.

The St. Nicholas building was originally built for a girls school in 1910. In 1971 the St. Nicholas school merged with the all-male Lakeside School to create one coeducational facility.

Then in 1983 the Cornish College of the Arts purchased the building from the Lakeside School for its north campus site. In 2003, the Muglia Foundation partnered with Saint Mark’s to purchase the building for the church.

The Muglia Family Foundation has gifted outright to St. Mark’s Cathedral their share of ownership in the St. Nicholas property (Image: St. Mark’s)

“The Muglias have a long history of involvement in the St. Mark’s Cathedral community,” said Thomason, “and it was their stated intent from the very beginning, in 2003, that they would eventually gift their part of the building as well.”

The Laura Ellen and Robert Muglia Family Foundation officially gifted their share of the building to the Cathedral in August of last year. On Sunday, October 25, a small gathering was held where the Muglias were recognized publicly for the first time as “silent partners” in the ownership of the property.

Laura Ellen Muglia said “participating in this project has been a blessing in our lives. It is our fervent hope and prayer that having full access to this historic and beautiful property will enable the people of St. Mark’s to chart the next stage of how they want to live, love, and serve in the world.”

The Bright Water Waldorf School and Gage Academy of Arts use the St. Nicholas school building year round, but the space has proven to be beneficial for all kinds of nonprofits.

“We’ve looked at other possibilities in there from dedicated homeless shelters, to a hub for multiple community non-profits, but we’re at a point now in the life of the building where we’re looking for what’s the best long-term use for the building,” said Thomason.

“It’s a beautiful, historic building, the façade is well known and much appreciated by the neighborhood,” said Thomason. “Between the schools and church we estimated that there are about 5,000 people using that building every year… so it’s a great community resource.”

Now the property is more fully in the hands of the church as St. Mark’s sets it course for important change and growth.

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6 days ago

Now that St.Mark’s has full ownership, I hope they will decide to not privatize it as (expensive) residences, in spite of what the “consultant” recommended. It is much more appropriate to keep it as a multi-use facility, for the good of both the church and the community.