Cornish College of the Arts, a haven for rumpled art school students on the North End of Broadway in Capitol Hill, is searching the city for some new space. It's not clear whether Cornish simply wants to expand by buying more property, or--as rumors have it--pack up and move out altogether.

Approximately 650 students are currently enrolled, and Chief Operations Director Vicki Clayton says Cornish needs to double its campus size.

According to sources, the need to expand or even relocate has surfaced in internal talks among administrators and members of the board of trustees. However, according to Meike Kaan, Cornish's director of public relations, the college has made no official decisions.

"We need the space. We need the space now," Clayton says, dodging the question about a definitive move from Capitol Hill.

Supporting the notion of an outright move off Capitol Hill, Clayton says the college would like to have a more cohesive campus. The college's scattered Capitol Hill site, including two disparate main buildings worth $2.6 million, is divvied up along 10th Avenue and Roy Street. It would make sense to unload the buildings and buy up a cluster of cohesive real estate.

One of the locations they've already scouted out is Paul Allen land--the South Lake Union area, where Cornish currently rents studio space on Westlake Avenue for senior students. (A Cornish/Paul Allen partnership would certainly fit with Allen's recent aquisition of the University of Washington's KEXP.)

"It's a beautiful area and has a huge amount of potential," Cornish's Clayton says.

According to a source who runs a non-profit out of South Lake Union, Cornish made a bid about nine months ago on a building in that area. Cornish denies this claim.

The administration says it's hesitant to pull up stakes from Capitol Hill. Cornish has been in the neighborhood since 1914. "Our history is based on Capitol Hill. We've been here since day one," Kaan says in a classic non-denial denial.

Even though the college has a strong desire to stay on Capitol Hill, Kaan acknowledges Cornish would consider moving elsewhere. This would bring dramatic change to the Broadway culture, which has already been hit with several business departures and closures in the past year ["Broadway Hit," August 16, Amy Jenniges].

Barry Rogel, president of the Broadway Improvement Association, worries that if Cornish jumps ship, the neighborhood might deteriorate further. "From a cultural and economic standpoint they would be sorely missed. They're part of Capitol Hill," says Rogel, who has heard about the potential plans from Cornish administrators.

According to Cornish spokesperson Kaan, making a move depends on the real estate situation on Capitol Hill in the near future.

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