Feb. 2 – CANNON BEACH – The town intends to secure a loan to redevelop the former elementary school into a tourist destination honoring local tribal history.
The city council, in a meeting Tuesday night, authorized the city to borrow $4.6 million for the project, which is expected to cost $5.5 million. Lodging taxes will be used to repay the loan.
To avoid excessive borrowing, City Manager Bruce St. Denis said the city would split the borrowing into two issues. The second could be realized within the framework of the financing of a new town hall and a police station.
The city property on Beaver Street – formerly Cannon Beach Elementary School – is approximately 1.6 acres. St. Denis said the goal is to create a destination that honors the Confederated Clatsop-Nehalem Tribes, since the site was home to the tribes’ ancestors.
“In many ways, we’re trying to emulate what the tribe has done there for a long time, which brings people together,” he said.
The city issued a request for proposals from design firms late last year. Proposals must be submitted by February 9. The city council expects to select a company by March.
There are two buildings on the property that need to be renovated. One is a 7,500 square foot gymnasium and the other is a one-story 5,000 square foot building with four classrooms and offices.
The buildings have not been used for several years, according to the city, and have had limited maintenance for more than a decade.
The city plans to create meeting places, a garden and spaces that showcase tribal farming practices. The Cannon Beach Pantry will remain.
The city also hopes to incorporate walking trails, interpretive signs, exhibits and planted areas.
When the property is not in use for visitors, St. Denis said the space could be used for community events.
The city manager said the design firm should meet with stakeholders and understand the objectives before starting the design process. City Council and the public will have the opportunity to participate throughout the process.
At the same time, Saint-Denis plans to launch a call for tenders from architectural firms for the construction of a new town hall and a police station.
He said the city will likely be ready to borrow funds for the project next January. When the city makes this broadcast, St. Denis said it will include any money needed to complete the project at the old elementary school.
Funding for the reconstruction will likely come from the prepared food tax approved by voters in November. It is estimated that the 5% tax will raise about $1.7 million annually and will be split between the city and the Cannon Beach Rural Fire Protection District.
After years of back and forth, city councilors unanimously agreed last year to rebuild City Hall and the police station at the existing location on E. Gower Street. The new building could cost more than $16 million and will also serve as an emergency operations center.
The new facility will be set back slightly and built over the parking lot, which is higher up. Saint-Denis said the extra height should protect the building from some tsunamis.
While the site is in the tsunami flood zone for a Cascadia subduction zone earthquake, St. Denis said the new building is not necessarily built to withstand that disaster.
City leaders had considered the city’s South Wind property as a possible location because it is outside the flood zone, but the vacant 55-acre lot proved difficult and expensive to develop.
“We’ll probably see smaller earthquakes that can do a lot of damage here, but Cascadia won’t,” St. Denis said. “So we want to make sure that we can react as best we can if this kind of event happens.”