K2 building sells: New owners say community interest will shape its future

The K2 building, for sale for more than a decade after once serving as a manufacturing hub on the island, has been sold.

Public records show Sound Properties, LLC, of which islander Brad Middling is a partner, purchased the building and land for $1,230,000 on July 19 from the Sitca Corporation, which owns K2. Last week, Middling directed questions about the building’s purchase and future plans to his business partner, Mike Kirkland. Kirkland also owns MK Property Services, whose sign offering space for lease recently replaced the longtime for sale sign on K2’s lawn.

So far there are no tenants lined up for the building or firm plans in place regarding what businesses will fill the 180,000-square-foot building and surrounding 17 acres. Kirkland said the owners will gauge interest from the community as they move forward and are open to talking to all interested parties at this stage. He noted that he and Middling have worked together on real estate purchases for many years, buying buildings they believe have intrinsic value.

“We feel that the longterm intrinsic value of the (K2) building — while not without risk — is that it is an iconic building of the community, it is huge and there is a fair amount of land. We feel that if we cater to the community and (engage) users who have a need for space, that we will be rewarded as investors,” he said.

The K2 building itself is on a 11-acre parcel of land; Sound Properties also purchased a contiguous 6-acre parcel that is zoned light industrial. Calling it a complicated property with a “labyrinth of restrictions,” Kirkland said the building is zoned for commercial business, and any tenants must fit in that category, such as restaurants, medical offices and clean, non-contaminating light industry.

On Sept. 11, Middling and Kirkland will host an invite-only community meeting to discuss possibilities for the site at Vashon Island Books, the former VFW Hall on Vashon Highway. The invite-only restriction is because of space constraints, Kirkland said, and asked people interested in attending the meeting to contact him. A public open house is slated for the “near term” once the K2 building is ready for such an event.

“Interest will manifest reality,” Kirkland stated twice, stressing that the community will drive what transpires next at the long-empty building.

The K2 site is known to be contaminated from its manufacturing days, with petroleum hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, pesticides and metals, among other substances. Kirkland said he and Middling are participating in the state’s Voluntary Cleanup Program, which facilitates remediation of hazardous waste sites. Middling and Kirkland will be in charge of cleanup in concert with the Sitca Corporation; the process is expected to begin later this fall. Cleanup costs will be “a seven-figure sum,” he said, but declined to say who will pay for the work.

At the Department of Ecology, Sam Meng, with the Toxics Clean Up Program, said he believes that the feasibility study report submitted in May for the site is a good one, but long-term monitoring of the site will be important in determining the plan’s success.

Meng cautioned that the cleanup process could take years and will require an initial pilot study before the full scope of work. Kirkland said he believes the shortest timetable for the cleanup process would be three years, the longest five or more years. He noted that most of the contaminants are “sub-slab” and that indoor air quality will be monitored and deemed safe before they lease to anyone.

“It is really important that the public knows we can only gain occupancy with a clean bill of health indoors,” he added.

The Middling family has worked with Kirkland for 25 years, and they have developed a “formidable portfolio of real estate assets in Washington and Colorado,” he said. During those years, he, Middling and their investment partners have considered buying K2 and negotiated on it “a time or two,” with their vision changing over time. Now, he said, having paid cash for the building, they are not in a rush as they head toward site cleanup and building repairs, then bringing new business to the building.

“We are really wanting to take a more pensive process to make sure we meet the needs of the community, and obviously we are considered stewards of a fairly visible piece of property,” he said.

Indeed, the property just south of town once housed the thriving K2 business, the first manufacturer to develop fiberglass skis that could be commercially produced — and which went on to be part of an array of Olympic and World Cup victories.

Public records show the oldest portion of the building dates back to 1946, but the Kirschners — who owned K2 — bought the property in 1956, according to island historian Bruce Haulman. In the 1960s and early 1970s, K2 grew rapidly, and they built a production plant and then soon expanded it.

K2’s peak production period was in 1990 when it made 450,000 pairs of skis, according to Haulman, and its peak employment came in 1999, when 750 people worked there. That same year, however, K2 laid off 200 employees when production moved to China. The company left the building completely in 2006, and it has been for sale ever since.

In addition to Kirkland and Middling’s interest over the years, others have hoped to buy the building. In 2008, islander Dick Sontgerath signed a letter of intent with K2 to purchase it for a community hub that would have housed the Vashon Health Center, Granny’s Attic, several nonprofits and the Vashon Library. That purchase did not come to pass. In 2010, after islander Tom Bangasser had filed a law suit over the county’s decision to change the building’s zoning from industrial to commercial, K2 increased its marketing efforts, offering the building for $3 million. In 2014, the Colorado-based Edipure, a marijuana edibles company, had a contract to buy the building, then backed out because of uncertainty around the King County permitting and rezoning processes that would have been required.

Now, the building is poised to have new life again. Those who are interested in leasing space should call MK Property Services at 425-888-2993. Those who would like to attend the Sept. 11 meeting, from 4 to 6 p.m. at Vashon Island Books, should contact Mike@mkps.net for more information and an invitation.