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News / Clark County News

Ed Lynch Estate buys downtown Vancouver block, but plans unclear

Pandemic clouds vision for former New Heights Church property

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: August 2, 2020, 6:05am
4 Photos
A fence surrounds the old church at 400 W. Evergreen Blvd., where loose bricks could pose a hazard to pedestrians.
A fence surrounds the old church at 400 W. Evergreen Blvd., where loose bricks could pose a hazard to pedestrians. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A square block of downtown Vancouver containing offices and a former church and performing arts center could someday house a nonprofit organization.

But its new owner says nothing is likely to happen soon due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The block was purchased by the Ed Lynch Estate, which has been active in the local fight against homelessness and other local charitable causes.

Michael Lynch, the trustee of the estate, said he does not have a viable organization lined up for the property, which includes an office building at 415 W. 11th St. and a former church at 400 W. Evergreen Blvd., each with a parking lot. Nonprofits are weathering the economic downturn and may be hesitant to expand.

Even if it’s not the right fit for a nonprofit, Lynch said the property is an asset for the estate, which is known for its charitable giving.

“How often do you have the opportunity to purchase a whole block that you can do different things with?” Lynch said.

Over the years, Lynch has had nonprofits approach him about potentially expanding into Vancouver.

The block was purchased for $3.2 million from New Heights Church, which closed its west annex last winter. It has three other campuses. New Heights first purchased part of the block in 2007 and bought the remaining parcels in 2015 from Children’s Center, which had outgrown the space and built a new facility in east Vancouver.

Lynch said it would take millions to fix the two aging buildings on the block; he’s been told it would cost $6 million and $12.5 million.

For now, he aims to get a safety hazard fixed as soon as possible: Loose bricks falling from the church building, in the southeast corner of the block. The nearby sidewalks are currently cordoned off with security fencing for the safety of passersby.

“Even a minor earthquake could take that thing down,” Lynch said.

The large brick church was built in 1912 by First Presbyterian Church after another on the site had burned to the ground, said Brad Richardson, executive director of the Clark County Historical Museum. It’s one of the stops on his walking tour of historic buildings in Esther Short. Richardson said the building’s bricks were overfired, giving them a polychromatic color.

The church was later owned by the city of Vancouver and used as a performance space called the Columbia Arts Center. The city sold the building in 2000 to entrepreneur Martin Hash, who sold it to New Heights in 2007.

Lynch could see the block being put to a lot of different positive uses being downtown and near the courthouse. For now, he said he’s fortunate to be in a position to hold onto the property for a while and “make something great happen.”

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith