Momentum builds for saving Concord Elementary School building
Restore Oregon is providing another powerful voice in favor of preserving the Concord Elementary building, which the North Clackamas School District closed in June 2014.
The nonprofit will give a free public presentation at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, May 20, at Oak Grove United Methodist Church, 14700 S.E. Rupert Drive, on how preservation and reuse of historic places, such as Concord School, support livable, sustainable communities. The presentation is hosted by Oak Grove Community Council, Jennings Lodge Community Planning Organization, Oak Lodge History Detectives, and Friends of Concord.
Brandon Spencer-Hartle, Restore Oregons senior field programs manager, hopes to continue the nonprofits history of saving buildings such as Concord.
We have great examples of schools that are very much assets even though kids are no longer there, Spencer-Hartle said. I would encourage the North Clackamas School Board to find the right person to redevelop the building.
As reported in From resistance to renovation of Concord Elementary School? April 22, Superintendent Matt Utterback has recommended providing a 23-month extension to allow the community, individuals, businesses, agencies, district and/or organizations time to research opportunities, collaborate, create partnerships, secure funds and develop plans to inform the future use of Concord. A final decision is planned at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 14, at the district offices, 4444 S.E. Lake Road, Milwaukie.
Restore Oregon is making the May 20 presentation at the invitation of Ron Campbell, whose Friends of Concord group submitted a petition with 500 supporters to preserve the school for community use. Restore Oregon is willing to give another presentation to district officials if invited.
Campbell said, A wide range of ideas have emerged from the outreach efforts of the Friends of Concord and other local community groups and similar efforts of the school district, but there are some common themes: preserve the open space, preserve the historic character and provide for community use. The community use ideas are particularly diverse, mostly suggesting activities that contribute in some way to community well-being and livability.
Among Restore Oregons project is a school in the Linnton neighborhood that was turned into condos. Another school in Eugene was converted into apartments with a community center.
Soon after Restore Oregon gave its presentations to Portland Public Schools and community groups in Southeast Portland in 2013, Washington High School was sold to Venerable Properties. Washington operated as a 116,000-square-foot high school from 1924 to 81. Venerable converted the schools auditorium into an event center, and turned the classrooms into 55,000 square feet of office space.
I dont think the building was sold because of us, but definitely the concepts we explored were taken to heart, Spencer-Hartle said.
Why is Concord so important to preserve for the neighborhoods along McLoughlin Boulevard?
Theres been so much change around Concord since it was built, so it has the potential to be an anchor as a link to the areas historic past before there were automobiles, Spencer-Hartle said.
He noted theres another Restore Oregon effort to help backers of historic buildings. Revitalize Main Street Act would create a 25 percent rebate for developers to reuse historic buildings.
The expense of doing a restoration is often out of reach for private developers, especially if they want to set aside some of the space for public use, he said.
It seems unlikely that the historic rehabilitation fund will become law this year. Senate Bill 565 received a positive hearing from the Oregon Senates Finance and Revenue Committee, which recommended its passage on March 26. However, the bill has since been stuck in the Tax Credits Committee.
Efforts are now underway to coalesce community support with formation of a Concord Partnership, consisting of local organizations and individuals with common interests in the schools future. Friends of Concord will soon be reaching out to potential partners with an invitation to join the Concord Partnership, whose mission will reflect the overwhelming support for preserving the schools open space and historic character and providing for community use.