In September, when The Stranger heard rumors that Cornish College of the Arts--a Capitol Hill institution since 1914--was considering a move off the Hill, college officials denied it ["Art Walk," Amy Baranski, Sept 27, 2001]. Chief Operations Director Vicki Clayton acknowledged that the school is outgrowing its 110,000-square-foot campus, scattered among a few buildings near Volunteer Park, but couldn't say whether the school was looking at property in the South Lake Union area.

Turns out Cornish has been real estate shopping. The school has a preliminary agreement to purchase the Lenora Square building, a 120,000--square-foot property on Lenora Street at Denny Way (near Westlake Avenue).

"The idea of us moving has been on our mind for a long time, on and off," says Cornish Public Relations Director Meike Kaan. As for dodging questions in September, Kaan says, "We did not look at Lenora [Square] until the end of October. We've been looking at the South Lake Union area as a possible site, but the Lenora building was not the first building we looked at."

Though the purchase of the seven-story building isn't a done deal, their potential new neighbors are enthusiastic.

"We're looking forward to Cornish College coming to the area," says Cascade Neighborhood Council President Jim Suter. George Flood, from the Cascade Area Business Neighbors, was surprised at the news, but equally positive. Who wouldn't be? If Cornish moves--it will be announced officially in a few weeks--650 students will move too. That means more residents and customers in the area.

As for the students, who've become part of the Capitol Hill fabric, it's hard to say how they feel about a move to an area that's more commercial than cultural--school let out for the summer last week.

amy@thestranger.com