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Tuesday, November 28, 2023
Nov. 28, 2023

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Apartments going up by Providence Academy; smokestack’s fate to be decided

By , Columbian Associate Editor
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Construction has begun on the Aegis Phase 1 six-story apartment complex near the Providence Academy. Workers plan to construct a tower crane today.
Construction has begun on the Aegis Phase 1 six-story apartment complex near the Providence Academy. Workers plan to construct a tower crane today. (Photos by Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

A new apartment complex is rising adjacent to the Providence Academy as the historic building’s owner, the Historic Trust, welcomes a new interim president and a newly finished balcony — and as it continues to seek approval to demolish its landmark smokestack.

The construction of two six-story buildings, called the Aegis development, began within the last two months, part of a master plan for the 2.21-acre site. The property is owned by Marathon Development, which it bought from the Historic Trust.

The project’s first building, to the north near C Street and East 12th Street, is under construction and should be finished by early 2022.

Both buildings will include 140 apartments: 28 studio units averaging 549 square feet, 71 one-bedroom units averaging 670 square feet and 41 two-bedroom units averaging 965 square feet. The buildings will also have 12,808 square feet of ground-floor retail and 151 surface parking spaces.

Plans include a rooftop terrace and an outdoor theater.

Pence Construction plans to put up a tower crane for Building 2 today, said Marc Thompson, vice president of preservation and property management for the Historic Trust.

A piece of the Academy campus to the north and northeast of the Academy will eventually be developed under the name Aegis Phase 2, also owned by Marathon Development. The latter includes more apartment buildings that will rise near the smokestack that’s visible to drivers on Interstate 5.

Academy upgrades

Porches on the northwest section of the Academy have been renovated with mostly new wood, painted with the building’s classic “Academy yellow” color, Thompson said. The northeast porches are next on the Historic Trust’s list of projects.

The balconies are a new feature for tenants as the building sees a comeback in office space; during the pandemic, the occupancy rate was as high as 95 percent, according to Thompson, but as of Wednesday, about 15 office units were available to rent.

The Historic Trust has invested about $16 million in the building’s interior and exterior since it purchased the Providence Academy in 2015 for $5 million.

“At least $30 million more trying to raise to cover the rest of it,” interim president and CEO Stacey Graham said.

Graham replaced former Historic Trust CEO David Pearson on March 1. She served on the board for 10 years before replacing Pearson.

Graham is also on the board of directors for Riverview Bank and was the president of the Humane Society of Southwest Washington for nearly eight years. She plans to stay at the Historic Trust through the end of the year while the board of directors meets with candidates over the summer, she said.

Graham said she hopes to hire someone by October.

“We have a new strategic plan and vision for the Trust, the Academy and the portion of the site we are managing — think collaboration, partnerships, destination,” she wrote in an email to The Columbian. “ The board will vote on it in early July.”


The Historic Trust will request demolition of the smokestack during the July 7 Historic Preservation Commission meeting.

The city of Vancouver decided not to order demolition — as it did with the properties’ laundry and boiler buildings — so the Historic Trust will have to go through the full process and meet the requirements set by Vancouver code for the demolition of historic buildings at the Academy site, according to Sean Denniston, a former commissioner who was term-limited off the Historic Preservation Commission.

According to Denniston, because the city has not ordered demolition, the commission will be the decision-making body — serving in more than just an advisory role, as it has regarding other issues on the Academy site. If the commission denies demolition, the Trust has the option to appeal to the city council, Denniston wrote in an email.

Denniston said that during the July 7 meeting, he will speak in opposition to the Historic Trust’s plan to demolish the smokestack; he claims the Historic Trust isn’t hiring a “sufficient level of expertise to do these preservation tasks adequately.”

“We have consulted with professional engineers, architects, preservationists and contractors and spent thousands of dollars to determine a way to stabilize the smokestack for the safety of the community in an economically feasible way,” Graham wrote in an email. “Because this was not possible, we are now committed to preserving the history of the smokestack through stories, reusing the bricks and other materials, exhibits and more.”

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