New tenant sought for Slocum House

Historic building a unique opportunity, experts say

By Gordon Oliver, Columbian business editor

Published:

 

For lease: Unique historic house in the heart of Vancouver. Located in parklike setting. Walking distance to farmers market, local shops and restaurants, downtown and library. Moments from freeway. Rent to be negotiated. Possibly haunted.

The Slocum House located in Esther Short Park is available for lease, and the city is looking for a suitable tenant or tenants to occupy one of Vancouver's iconic structures.

The city's sales pitch isn't as punchy as the imaginary advertisement listed above, and its news release says nothing about the persistent myth that the old house is haunted. But commercial brokers recognize the Slocum House, which is about 140 years old, as a potential jewel for the right tenant.

"Opportunities like this don't come along very often," said Bob Bernhardt of Coldwell Banker Commercial Jenkins-Bernhardt Associates. He sees the house, containing 6,100 square feet in its two floors and basement, as a possible home for a creative technology firm, professional offices, or a gift shop.

Request for proposals

City officials are trying to avoid preconceived ideas for the future of a building that for many years was occupied by the Slocum House Theatre Company. It has issued a request for proposals to solicit a new tenant for the structure, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It can be found at City of Vancouver or by calling 360-487-8430. The city's deadline for proposals is June 27.

"Our goal is to support the continued redevelopment of Vancouver's vibrant downtown," said Tim Haldeman, Vancouver's director of general services, in a news release. "We hope to attract an exciting new partner at the Slocum House location, to offer food and beverage, entertainment, retail, business or a mix of uses to complement existing uses of our downtown park."

The city's document describes the Italianate-style house, built by Charles W. Slocum and his wife, Laura, as the only remaining building in what once was a residential section of the city. The house was moved one block from its original site to save it from demolition. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and placed in the Clark County Heritage Register in 1985.

It was home to the Slocum House Theatre for nearly 50 years, but the community theater group ended its programs at the Slocum House in March. Before the group's departure, the city had said it would have to quadruple rent on the building, which had been $635 a month, to $2,500 a month. In its request for proposals, the city says only that it will lease the building at "market rates."

Elson Strahan, CEO and president of the Fort Vancouver National Trust, praised the city for entertaining all offers without predisposing a use for the property.

"It's an ideal location, with park activities and concerts," he said. "It would be good for an organization that knows how to capitalize on that energy." Or perhaps, he said, a firm that does business with the city would want to locate itself directly across from the new City Hall.

Strahan cautions that the building would create a tough challenge for a tenant. "Although the Slocum House is a very charming, iconic building, it's not a real open floor plan," he said. The building's historic designation limits significant changes to the layout, he added.

And, about those stories of a ghost that has long haunted the Slocum House, which were the topic of a recent episode of The Travel Channel television program "The Dead Files." The city says nothing about the possible ghost, and neither Bernhardt nor Strahan worries much about a spook in the building.

"I haven't seen any ghost when I've gone to plays," Strahan said.