Is Cannon Beach school a ‘must-buy’?

The fate of the Cannon Beach Elementary School remains undecided as city officials consider a purchase of the property.

CANNON BEACH —What do you do with an old elementary school ?

Residents want to transform the former home of Cannon Beach Elementary School into a center for music and the arts. The school, located on land vulnerable to a tsunami, closed in 2013. It is owned by the Seaside School District.

The Cannon Beach 2016-17 budget, passed in June, included a $665,000 placeholder for purchase, demolition, remediation and restoration of the school site. City officials aim to decide whether to purchase the elementary school property by the end of 2016. At the Parks Master Plan meeting in June, residents wrote their vision for city parks with markers on large maps. For NeCus’ Park, many residents wrote “must buy,” and “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.” The school sits on the Native American village site.

“I believe there is significant public support for the purchase and renovation of the former elementary school site to be used as a city arts center to include a large acoustic space for public concerts and other musical events,” John Buehler said at the June council meeting. “I encourage you to purchase and renovate the former elementary school to allow public use of the site for music performances and art events.”

Buehler, the Cannon Beach Chorus conductor, said the town lacks a large acoustic space for large arts and musical events, and a choral conductors’ workshop formerly held in Cannon Beach is now held in Seaside, where it brings “thousands of people.”

“The site has been a tremendously important part of Cannon Beach history,” resident Susan Glarum said at the work session.

Its history began as the site a Native American village visited by Lewis and Clark, then as elementary school and summer home of the Haystack Arts program started by my father.

The program was started by Glarum’s father, L. Stanley Glarum, in collaboration with Portland State University.

Glarum and resident Jan Siebert-Wahrmund both said the elementary school property could possibly be used for an arts and culture center, as well as an area for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program.

“It may not be simple or easy, but the first step is to make sure that it remains a possibility by keeping money in the budget to purchase the property,” Siebert-Wahrmund said. She said residents would be willing to donate time and money toward the project.

Resident Mary Peterson said the purchase price was an “outrageous amount for less than one acre,” adding the average home price in Cannon Beach is “about $330,000.”

City Manager Brant Kucera said the school site would cost $400,000 to purchase and the remaining $265,000 of city funds would go to demolition, restoration and remediation.

Despite closing of the elementary school in 2013, Kucera said an environmental assessment report on the property does not seem to show major environmental concerns. In coming weeks, engineers will complete a structural analysis on the building. The city plans to make a decision by the end of the year, according to the strategic plan.

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