The former Lincoln School, shown on Thursday, will be examined by the City of Port Angeles for possible conversion into multifamily housing. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

The former Lincoln School, shown on Thursday, will be examined by the City of Port Angeles for possible conversion into multifamily housing. (Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News)

Housing study set at school

City of Port Angeles wants to transform former Lincoln building

PORT ANGELES — The City of Port Angeles plans to pay for a study to determine whether the former Lincoln School building can be turned into multifamily housing.

The proposal, which included $50,000 budgeted from the city’s 2024-2029 Capital Facilities Plan, was approved unanimously by the City Council on Tuesday.

“This is a big step in a new direction,” City Manager Nathan West told the council.

The building, at 926 W. Eighth St., is owned by the North Olympic History Center, which announced in November its plans to have it demolished after a multiyear process that included researching alternative uses.

David Brownell, the executive director of the history center, said Thursday that informal estimates pushed a full restoration to about $12 million.

“We did about five or six years of due diligence on our end with outreach and fact finding, and for multiple reasons, the restoration of the Lincoln School building is outside the scope of what we’re capable of doing,” Brownell said.

“The decision to proceed with pursuing the demolition of the building was not an easy decision by any means,” he said. “We were kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Brownell said initial meetings with city staff will be scheduled before the end of the month.

West cited the council’s innovative efforts in affordable housing, including the Housing Pipeline Pilot Project it authorized in the capital facilities plan.

“Simultaneously, we find that a building, known as Lincoln School, is at risk,” West said. “This is one of the only historic buildings of significance that we have south of the downtown area, and it’s important that we make every effort to preserve and protect that building.

“I believe that both of those efforts, for housing and continued innovation that council has demonstrated there, as well as the desire to protect that building, very well might co-mingle and might be mutually supportive goals.”

The history center has invested $500,000 into stabilizing the building since it purchased the school in 1991. Expenses included constructing a new roof, internal structure enhancement and ripping out an old wooden floor and replacing it with concrete, Brownell said.

They also performed a seismic retrofit, and the second story was “entirely gutted and reframed,” he said.

Despite those efforts, the 107-year-old unreinforced masonry building continues to deteriorate.

Brownell said the history center currently pays for insurance, electricity and property taxes for the building, although he didn’t have a monthly cost. He also said there has been a lot of interest in deconstruction and salvage of some of the materials.

“Ideally we’re wanting to try to save as much material as possible, but the more you try to save, the more expensive it becomes,” he said.

Brownell said the history center recently had a commercial real estate agent who visited the site and upon arrival, asked, “Why would you get rid of this?” but once inside, the question turned to, “Why is this building still here?”

On Tuesday, council member Brendan Meyer asked West if the facade could be saved.

“It’s an absolute prerequisite to the success of the project,” said West, who added there are a number of scenarios that could result in multifamily development for the entire site.

“Certainly not just the school building, but plenty of opportunity to preserve for historic views while also doing additional multifamily units and/or buildings on the same site,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re exploring all those options, and as part of that, we want to do a complete due diligence.”

Some of those factors include the architectural and structural integrity of the building as well as the engineering, he said.

“But the other elements incorporate feasibility of site development and really making sure that we’ve looked at that site every possible way to make sure we can get the maximum number of units permitted in that location,” West said.

________

Managing Editor Brian McLean can be reached at 360-417-3531 or by email at brian.mclean@peninsuladailynews.com.

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