Cannon Beach to explore reuse of former children’s center

The residents of Cannon Beach have ideas as to how they might use the former Cannon Beach Elementary school they purchased in July, but at a work session on Nov. 4, the council began the process of deciding what to do with it.

The question is whether to renovate the property into some sort of meeting place for community events.

During the meeting, the council heard a presentation from Oregon-based ZCS Engineering & Architecture on a preliminary estimate of what a renovation would cost based on a visual walk-through of the property.

The firm provided estimates ranging from level one, which would stop further deterioration of the buildings to level two, designed to allow the city to obtain occupancy to level three, making the main building and gymnasium into a functional civic center and to level four, turning the property into a “model community center” with high-end performance materials and significant upgrades.

The preliminary estimate for the highest level renovation –the model community center option – would cost $3, 998,000. The other levels of renovation would cost less.

Mayor Sam Steidel has written a lengthy and detailed white paper on his ideas of how the community could use the property. In the paper, he invites “residents and businesses to offer their hopes, ideas and insights” as to how the community can use the buildings.

The city plans to put in place a process by which the residents and businesses can provide input.

At the work session, St. Denis said: “From the beginning, it was the city’s philosophy that the primary reason for moving forward with the purchase (of the school) was to acquire the land which: is prominently located at the northern entrance to the city, it adjoins other city property, (and) sits on Ecola Creek.

“The condition of the 70-year-old wooden buildings seemed questionable but the thought was that if the land could be brought under city control and we could ultimately get the use of the buildings, it would be a double win for our community.”

At the work session, St. Denis said it would be “possible to take a loan (out) without cost to our taxpayers.”

He said the cost of the annual debt service on a 20-year loan would be $267,000.

“…it is possible that if we use the county Transient Lodging Tax (TLT) funds, it is possible to pay debt service on a $4,000,000 loan with only a portion of what we receive from the county,” St. Denis said.

“Each year we receive $325,000,” he said. “I don’t think we need to be afraid of a better project.”

There are “other ways to do this project, grants or something,” he added.

At the work session, Matthew Crawford, an architectural designer, and Zach Stokes, a principal in ZCS, explained the estimate and answered the council’s questions.

Stokes said the firm primarily does seismic retrofits of schools.

“Your building is in relatively good shape other than the problems everybody knows about such as the leaky roofs and broken windows," Stokes said. “Your gymnasium is unlike anything I’ve seen in the state of Oregon. It’s really neat. It’s a neat specimen of the architecture of that time.”

In answer to the council’s and the city manager’s questions, the group discussed various issues, including the need for seismic retrogrades, the necessary renovation to bring the buildings into compliance with the American Disabilities Act, sprinkler systems, replacing the roofs, whether to use the classrooms and whether to keep the mezzanine or not.

At the Nov. 12 work session, the council plans to discuss the decision making process for this project.

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