CWU News

City of Sammamish and CWU Move Closer to Offering Educational Programs at Former Mars Hill Church Site

Central Washington University could begin offering baccalaureate educational programs in Sammamish in Sept 2017 under the terms of an agreement approved this week by the Sammamish City Council.

By a 6-1 vote, the council adopted a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to allow the university to lease the empty Mars Hill Church site. According to the memo, a formal lease agreement must be in place by March 21.

“When we were approached by the city of Sammamish, we were intrigued by the possibilities of providing higher education academic programs in the community,” said CWU President James L. Gaudino. “A preliminary survey of residents by the city indicated a strong desire for postsecondary educational programs, so we could see there is community demand for this type of partnership.”

Gaudino noted that CWU has a proven track record when it comes to offering extended learning programs with its six university centers, including Lynnwood, Des Moines, Pierce County, Moses Lake, Wenatchee, and Yakima, as well as satellite operations in Everett and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

He said these programs traditionally offer face-to-face, interactive television and online classes, which provide greater access to higher education, particularly to students that have work and family commitments that don’t always allow them to attend a traditional campus.

“Part of our mission is to encourage lifelong learning and to provide as many opportunities for learning as we can,” Gaudino continued. “We believe partnerships, such as this proposal from Sammamish, can only enhance our ability to do that as well as meet the educational needs of the Sammamish community.”

Under the terms of the MOU, CWU hopes to begin offering Running Start courses at Sammamish in fall 2017. Running Start allows high school students to take courses that earn both high school and college credit.

The university anticipates beginning limited renovation work at the site shortly after the formal lease has been signed.

In March 2015, the City of Sammamish purchased the former Mars Hill Church for the purpose of partnering with a postsecondary institution to offer courses and academic programs.

In spring of 2016, more than 20 CWU faculty, staff, and administrators studied the feasibility of providing academic programming at the 22.4-acre property, which boasts a two-story, multi-purpose facility of nearly 31,000 square feet.

As a result of that study, which called the concept promising, the university and city began discussions to analyze and determine the extent of cooperation between the two entities and drafted the memorandum of understanding.

“Central has a long association with the community of Sammamish, which many of our past and present students call home,” Gaudino said. “It’s a beautiful facility with a lot of potential and we strongly believe this partnership will provide long-term benefits to both the people of Sammamish and the university.”

Media contact: Richard Moreno, director of content development, 509-963-2714,

—January 12, 2017