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June 27, 2022

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The Historic Trust receives permit to demolish Providence Academy smokestack

Vancouver imposes 90-day period to see if trust can raise $3.5 million to save it

By , Columbian Innovation Editor
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The Historic Trust has received a demolition permit to tear down the landmark Providence Academy smokestack, but it must wait 90 days to see if $3.5 million can be raised to preserve the structure instead.
The Historic Trust has received a demolition permit to tear down the landmark Providence Academy smokestack, but it must wait 90 days to see if $3.5 million can be raised to preserve the structure instead. (Taylor Balkom/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Historic Trust received a permit to demolish the Providence Academy smokestack on Wednesday, but there remains a 90-day period to see if the trust can raise $3.5 million to restore it.

“We’re at the final decision-making process,” said John Deeder, interim president and CEO of the Historic Trust.

Deeder said that the trust will soon search out donors and see if they can get pledges to save the smokestack, but if not enough pledges are made, it will come down. So far, the trust has raised almost nothing in donations to save the smokestack since it’s been marked as seismically unsafe.

The demolition will cost about $500,000, he said.

The trust, which owns the smokestack and a nearby brick boiler room and laundry room, will sell the land to developer Aegis for apartment buildings. Deeder said Aegis wouldn’t buy the land until the brick buildings are either restored or demolished because the company doesn’t want the liability.

The price of the land is not affected by the smokestack’s presence if it’s fully restored, Deeder said. The trust will sell the land for about $3.1 million to $3.3 million.

David Pearson, the former Historic Trust president, said in 2020 that the cost to save the smokestack with a collar and guide wires would be about $800,000, but city officials since then said they wouldn’t allow that. Instead, workers would have to fill the structure with concrete and a metal sleeve. Three bids to do the job were between $3 million and $3.5 million, Deeder said.

The Historic Trust, which owns and operates out of Providence Academy, decided to focus time and money on restoring the Academy building, which predates the smokestack. The Academy was built around 1880 and the smokestack in 1910.

“If we do have to demolish the smokestack, there will be some large-scale photographs and writing around the site,” Deeder said. “Those will be prominently displayed at the Academy and at the new development.”

The trust will salvage as much brick from the smokestack and the two small nearby structures, but much of the brick is degraded. The salvaged brick will be reused on site.

Jason Nortz, city development review manager, said the city placed a condition on the demolition permit that “provides for a 90-day demo delay upon issuance of the demo permit to allow third parties to propose alternatives to demolition to the owner. Due to this condition, the demolition of the smokestack cannot occur for at least 90 days from March 30.”

Aegis is currently developing two “Aegis Phase I” apartment buildings near C and East 12th streets in downtown Vancouver.

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