By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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“We are looking into ways that it can be reclaimed,” Superintendent David Engle said of the 120-year-old condemned building at 450 Fir St.
“It's a shadow of its former self and an eyesore,” he said.
“If we don't do anything, it will cost us money to keep it propped up.”
The estimated cost for a seismic retrofit and interior renovation of the historic structure is between $4 million and $6 million, Engle said.
Officials hope to find a company that will make that investment under a long-term lease with the district.
The School Board decided Monday to discuss a draft form of a request for proposal from private firms at its next meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 27 in the Gael Stuart Building, 1610 Blaine St.
The proposal is targeted toward a private company or foundation that understands the building's place in the community and would be willing to invest in the property, Engle said.
“The ideal company would be Amazon or some other entity that can provide economic opportunities that are consistent with what people are doing at the high school,” he added.
“It would be great if Google decided it needed a Northwest office and needed a place to house their servers.”
Engle said the best candidate would offer opportunities for students to learn about the business and work as interns.
The stone-and-brick, 30,000-square-foot structure was built in 1892 with an ornate wood roof and peaked fourth-floor attic space.
In the 1920s, the wooden spires and clock tower that dominated the roof line of the Victorian edifice were destroyed by hurricane-strength winds during a storm.
The building was in use as a school until 1980, then as the administration building until 2012.
Now it is a storage area for the district, Director of Support Services Brad Taylor said.
This includes books, desks and other items. Personnel recently retrieved a coffeemaker from there, Engle said.
The business would have to be appropriate for the location, officials said.
For instance, Taylor said the McMenamins pub and brewery chain, based in Portland, Ore., has renovated several historic buildings but said a brew pub would not be considered there.
Engle said the building's historic nature “will become an issue if we choose demolition,” although in that case, much of the building materials could be reused.
Aside from the bricks, several old beams in good condition also could be recycled.
“In Port Townsend, we don't want to waste anything,” Engle said.
The seismic retrofit is the most significant repair needed, according to Taylor, who described the process as constructing the outer walls of one building inside the walls of another.
According to a 2012 report commissioned by the school district, the floor and roof joists, beams and columns are all in good condition, and the walls between the classrooms appear to be sound and level.
The report found no significant water damage inside the building. Engle said keeping the interior dry is a significant expense that the school district can no longer afford.
Taylor said young people occasionally break into the building by kicking out the boards covering the lower-story windows.
“I worry that someone is going to come in here and get hurt,” he said.
The building is not on the tax rolls, since public school district property is exempt, so there is no official property assessment.
Engle said the structure's value is hard to quantify.
“It's not really worth anything at this point,” he said.
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.