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News / Clark County News

Academy redesign coming soon

Feedback under review; updated plans expected at the end of the month

By Tom Vogt, Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter
Published: May 5, 2018, 11:07pm

An updated design for development at the Providence Academy site is expected at the end of the month, officials of The Historic Trust said Friday.

The Historic Trust and a Portland builder have been taking public input after announcing plans for a mixed-use development on the west side of the Academy property.

Marathon Acquisition & Development of Portland is proposing a pair of five-story buildings along C Street, between Evergreen Boulevard and 12th Street.

Officials from the trust and Marathon held a public open house earlier this month. With opportunities for online comments as well, about 250 people have been able to offer feedback, said Mike True, CEO and president of the trust. The feedback is being reviewed this month. True said.

True and Marathon officials also did an informal presentation at Monday’s meeting of the Clark County Historic Preservation Commission. Marathon Vice President Aaron Wigod told the commission that “I want to come back to you with changes” when it’s time for an official proposal.

The development proposal was part of the plan when The Historic Trust bought the seven-acre property in 2015. The mission was to keep 3.5 acres and renovate the historic Academy building at 400 E. Evergreen Blvd. Built in the 1870s, the former school and orphanage was once the largest brick building north of San Francisco.

While the Academy was a $5 million cash purchase, the total project will cost about $28 million, said True. The trust is looking at $15 million in renovations and about $8 million in other expenses — including drainage and parking lot improvements — on the property.

To finance that work, the other 3.5 acres have to generate some money.

“We need income for a decade-long project,” board member Paul Speer said when Historic Trust officials met Friday with The Columbian’s editorial board. “There is no other path, because of the economics.”

“We spent three years looking for a developer,” noted Steve Horenstein, past chair of The Historic Trust. “It couldn’t be an eight-story building, which is how you would maximize the return.” Instead, the trust board wanted development that complements the historic structure, built by pioneering nun Mother Joseph.

The two proposed buildings include about 140 residential units. In addition to the buildings, the project would result in a couple of other changes in the neighborhood. The former El Presidente restaurant, built in the 1970s, is scheduled to be torn down; its bricks will remain on the property and will be used to build a public plaza.

And the city’s street map will change. D Street will be extended south to Evergreen Boulevard, separating Providence Academy from the new development. And 11th Street will be extended east, separating the two proposed buildings.

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Columbian Science, Military & History Reporter