Lessee sought to rehabilitate Port Townsend's historical school building; without one, it likely will be razed
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The building that housed Lincoln School in Port Townsend lost its ornate roof in a storm in the 1920s. — Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Port Townsend School District Director of Support Services Director Brad Taylor shown inside the Lincoln Building, which the district is attempting to lease to a corporation that fill foot the bill for its renovation.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — The Port Townsend School Board has started a 90-day countdown for finding a company that will spend between $4 million and $6 million to rehabilitate the historic Lincoln Building under a long-term lease.

If such a firm isn't found, the 120-year-old building at 450 Fir St. could be demolished.

The board at a special meeting Friday unanimously authorized the publication of a request for proposal to draw prospective tenants.

The resolution approved by the board says “renovation of the building using district funds would be cost-prohibitive and, absent another method of funding renovations, the district would consider demolishing the building.”

The School Board had declared the building surplus Monday, along with a policy saying the district prefers to have the building restored but that it may have to take other actions such as demolition and/or sale.

“This board does not have any intention of selling the property,” said Anne Burkart, a member of the board.

“If we do not find a suitable tenant to lease it, we will probably demolish it.”

Submissions are due May 1.

A pre-submittal meeting is set for April 15 at the district offices, when prospective tenants can request tours of the building.

The board is expected to make a decision in May.

“We have our fingers crossed,” Burkart said.

“We hope we find a suitable tenant because the district values the historical property, and we feel the community also values the historic significance” of the structure built in 1892.

Uses would be limited to educational purposes or a commercial use that is appropriate for the proximity to the school, ruling out a bar or a brewery.

“Right now, the building isn't of use to anybody,” said Superintendent David Engle.

“It would be great if we could put it to a use that would be constructive to students.”

He thinks a technology company such as Google or Microsoft could make good use of the structure and would be willing to support up to $6 million in renovations needed to bring the building back to life.

A seismic retrofit is the most significant repair needed, district officials have said.

It also has electrical and plumbing issues, as well as broken windows, deteriorated mortar between some bricks and other problems, Burkart said.

“Structurally, the building is pretty sound, but it needs a lot of work to make it habitable,” she added.

Engle said a long-term lease agreement would translate into “a good deal” for the lessee.

“The terms will be favorable,” Engle said. “They can amortize the cost of the renovations over the terms of the lease, which makes good business sense.”

While no lease amount is specified, the stated terms are for an initial 30 years with an option to renew for another 30 years.

At the end of the lease, the property would be returned to the school district, according to the request for proposal.

Engle said the request for proposal will be published in local newspapers as well as other publications.

He plans to directly approach appropriate companies and invite them to submit a proposal.

Engle said the district could provide a virtual video tour of the 30,000-square-foot building that would be linked to the district's site, www.ptschools.org.

If no satisfactory bids are received, the district would explore the demolition process, which would be subsidized through its capital projects levy.

Dismantling the historic building would be a painstaking process.

The district would attempt to preserve and recycle materials such as bricks and large beams that could be used in new construction projects, Engle said.

The stone-and-brick structure was built 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.

It is now a storage area for the district, housing books, desks and other items.

The building is not currently listed in any historical registry, but it takes only one citizen to raise the issue in order for the state to take notice, Engle said.

The building is not on the tax rolls, since public school district property is exempt, so there is no official property assessment.

For more information, visit www.ptschools.org.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: February 01. 2014 6:19PM
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