RIDGEFIELD — The Ridgefield School District and the city will team up on a project expected to move a few city departments to the renovated View Ridge Middle School. As a result, officials will consider whether to expand the library at its current location.
As part of the school district’s $78 million bond, which voters approved in 2017, the school district will move its students from the downtown View Ridge campus to a new 5-8 campus across South Hillhurst Road from Ridgefield High School. The district has been looking for partners to renovate the building, which was seen as a possible choice for a new library.
Officials from the city and the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District have been looking for a new library location since 2014, but the city’s agreement to move public works and community development offices to the school building signals an end to the chance of moving it to View Ridge.
“We’re no longer considering the school district site,” said Amelia Shelley, executive director of the Fort Vancouver Regional Library District. “We gave them a conceptual design, but it just didn’t come to fruition.”
School Superintendent Nathan McCann said the city seemed more prepared to come in and help renovate View Ridge.
“The timing wasn’t going to be right (with the library project),” he said. “We needed a partner who could come in and put in money for this repurposing project.”
The school district plans on operating out of View Ridge for the remainder of the school year. The new 5-8 campus is expected to be ready in time for the start of the 2018-2019 school year, along with the new Ridgefield Outdoor Sports Complex, another joint project between the city and the school district.
The View Ridge renovation will go out to bid in April in a package with additions to the high school and security upgrades at elementary schools. McCann said the renovated View Ridge, which will also house the school district’s administrative offices, could open in early 2019. Since no students are involved, McCann said, the district wouldn’t hesitate to move district offices in the middle of a school year.
City Manager Steve Stuart said the city’s move to View Ridge is not finalized, but the two sides are discussing design and costs.
“It creates a shared benefit for the district in having a tenant who is sharing the cost,” he said. “There’s an overall savings in sharing that space. We figure it’s essentially the same taxpayers, so this is a way to be more efficient with their money.”
The repurposed View Ridge is also expected to have space for community meetings, such as city council meetings, which are currently held in the Ridgefield Community Center.
Future library possibilities
With View Ridge out of the running, Shelley and library officials are willing to wait to find a site they think will work for the library. The Ridgefield library is currently around 2,300 square feet, and library officials are looking for a new site that will be in the 12,000- to 14,000-square-foot range.
“There is no timetable,” Shelley said. “People in the community would like us to move faster.”
One site that popped up as an option recently is the community center, which is attached to the library. The library currently rents space from the community center for meetings. If the library were to take over the community center, it would have around 8,000 square feet combined. Shelley said no decision has been made about that option.
“We are in the process of evaluating the site for expansion and talking with the community center to see if this is something they might be open to discussing further,” she said. “It’s part of the no-stone-unturned approach, but it remains to be seen if it’s viable.”
Another much-discussed option is a site at the corner of Mill Street and Main Avenue near the post office. The city owns the plot at the corner, and three adjacent parcels are owned by a developer who purchased them to possibly build a new library in a public-private partnership with the city. The city pushed for the Mill and Main site instead of the View Ridge site, as the Mill and Main site is technically in the city’s narrowly defined downtown area.
“When the library is downtown, it brings people downtown,” Stuart said. “It’s supporting the downtown businesses.”
However, Shelley and library officials said the Mill and Main site isn’t what they’re looking for, as a slope in the property would make it difficult to design parking and entryways. The site is also close to the railroad tracks.
“Being so close to the tracks is not ideal for a library, in my opinion,” Shelley said.
If the library isn’t built at Mill and Main, the city would most likely use the land for another public project or declare it as surplus and sell it, Stuart said. He added that city councilors aren’t dead set on that site for a new library.
“The council is committed well beyond Mill and Main,” he said. “They are committed to getting a new library built.”