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News / Clark County News

Vancouver district plans to build elementary school next to library

Lot formerly called Library Square, just south of main branch, will be a magnet school

By Katie Gillespie, Columbian Education Reporter
Published: January 16, 2018, 9:50am
2 Photos
The empty lot south of the Vancouver Community Library was originally to be a parking garage as part of the Library Square development. New plans indicate the space will be a school.
The empty lot south of the Vancouver Community Library was originally to be a parking garage as part of the Library Square development. New plans indicate the space will be a school. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

An elementary school is the latest announced addition to downtown Vancouver’s growing skyline — and with it could come other significant development near Interstate 5.

Vancouver Public Schools announced its plans Tuesday morning to buy a section of the property immediately south of the Vancouver Community Library for construction of a new elementary school. Vancouver developer Killian Pacific owns the property at C Street and East Eighth Street, according to a district news release.
The company has signed a letter of understanding with the district to transfer the southwest portion of the property for the school. Killian Pacific also contributed a “significant portion of the purchase price,” according to the release.

Details on the project, which will be funded by Vancouver Public Schools’ recent school bond, are to be worked out as the district continues to negotiate with the developer.

The school is only part of the story for that property. The district’s announcement signals substantial development the city is eying for the site. The school is likely to be part of larger development, called the Riverwest project, which could include a public parking garage and a private business, said Chad Eiken, the city’s community and economic development director.

The three vacant parcels cover 2.8 acres, one of the last remaining empty areas in downtown.

The city is eligible for tax incentives from a private development on the property to help pay for a parking garage, Eiken said. Under the state’s LIFT legislation, or Local Infrastructure Financing Tool, the city is eligible to receive $500,000 a year for 25 years in state property tax reimbursements from a private development on the property.

That money can then be used to pay debt on the parking garage.

“We’re really motivated to try to pull a project together,” Eiken said.

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The city will hold a work session late next month to discuss plans for a potential project at the site.

“I think it’s a real encouraging sign that our residential population continues to grow downtown,” Eiken said of the planned elementary school. “Now there’s a growing need to provide a school for the kids that are living down here.”

Voters in the district approved a $458 million bond measure in February, which included construction of a new downtown elementary school for kindergarten through fifth-grade students. The district has proposed the campus as a “school of choice,” a magnet program for arts and innovation similar to Vancouver School of Arts and Academics or iTech Preparatory School.

Todd Horenstein, assistant superintendent of facility support services for the district, said the school will be an “incubator” for the types of jobs growing in Vancouver: science and technology fields, coding and curriculum driven by hands-on projects.

“I think it’s a huge win and benefit for the community,” Horenstein said. “You’ve got the link to the library, the link to the historic downtown business core. It provides an opportunity for a very unique school.”

The district hopes to have a purchase agreement to the school board this spring.

“The board is really excited at the opportunity to support the vibrant development of downtown,” said Michelle Giovannozzi, president of the school board. “It’s a great opportunity to jump in with that growth that’s going on for families.”

Representatives from Killian Pacific were not immediately available for comment Tuesday.

The district had initially proposed a new campus on Block 10, bordered by Columbia, Washington, Eighth and Ninth streets. The city of Vancouver, however, instead accepted a proposal from Gramor Development to build a mixed-use development, including a grocery store, on the lot. Construction has not begun on that project.

The school is slated to open in the fall of 2021.

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