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Friday, April 13, 2012

Apartments -- better than nothing?

The conversion of the old Washington High School, in Portland's Buckman neighborhood, into apartments is moving along, albeit hesitantly. The neighborhood is going along with it, apparently because they've been given no other choice besides continued abandonment of the facility. At one time, we thought, there was talk of a community center being installed there. That would have been neat, but we guess there's no money for it -- it's all going to Little Lord Paulson's hot dog vendors and the Portland State Patronage Center.

Comments (11)

Here's my Washington High School story. I'm compelled to repeat it since this article mistakenly says it's on 11th and Stark. Hello? 12th.

To understand the ending, you have to know this is taken from a bigger account of drinking at the old Virginia Cafe:

I used to run on the track at 12th and SE Stark, something I did for decades till I had to quit jogging. One day, back in the crazy years, I was running and there was one other person on the track - a young, cute woman. As I came around I also saw this young man standing there on the side by the Washington High School buildings, who seemed to turn like he didn't want me to see his face. I continued on and the next thing I saw was the woman running across the field directly at me. She was hysterical - beyond freaked out - and said the young guy had pulled a gun on her and told her to come with him. She had made the scary decision to turn and run for it, running right towards me.

When I saw her I couldn't imagine what had happened. I even felt she thought I had done something wrong. I was bewildered and a little shocked. She told me what had occurred, and I said, "If he's over there, then we're going to go this way and climb this fence." We were right by 12th street. We started climbing the fence, when just like that, a police car came by, saw us and pulled over. She told the officer what happened, so within minutes the police had swept the immediate area, and this young man had several squad cars after him. They told us to wait at the track.

I had hugged the woman or she had hugged me, but she couldn't settle down. She was freaked - breathing heavily, etc.... I didn't know what to do so I suggested to her that she run some laps. She took off and really ran fast. It was the old, "Run it off."

One reason this incident made the papers was that two squad cars spotted the kid at the same time down one street and they collided. The officers got out and nabbed the kid and then everyone came back to the track. In the newspaper it said, "she ran for assistance to an unidentified jogger", but when they returned the officers were much more interested in talking with her, in her cute little running shorts, and I sat on the side.

Incidentally, by now the most upset person there was one of the officers. When he told the kid to drop the gun and lie down the kid turned around as if he was going to aim the gun at the cop. The officer kept saying how he almost shot him and the officer's hand and whole arm were shaking. Thankfully, the officer had risked it for that extra second or two and the kid laid down.

They told me I could go, but the woman said, "No, this guy saved me." It was totally not true, but that was her mindset. I was just there. In fact, my mindset - what I had thought of immediately - was that it was somehow my fault. I said that I was leaving but that I wanted to get a look at this kid. I snuck up the side of the patrol car and glanced at his face in the back seat. What a disaster. The crime was so sad and stupid. To think of how many charges he had racked up in such a short pointless time: Attempted kidnapping, and on and on.

I ran into the woman again at Poretta's Pizza Parlor one time on Hawthorne. My friends worked there so I said this was the woman from the situation I had told them about. I didn't know how she would act but she came over, but her arm around me and said, "This man saved my soul." Somehow in her stress she had bonded with me to an unrealistic extent. It was an ego-trip but I couldn't help wondering what the hell she was talking about.

Okay, here's where it gets good. One happy hour we were in the Virginia Cafe - around 4 of us in the booth. The cocktail waitress approached and it was the woman from the track! She immediately said the drinks were on her. Now, she would only work there a short while, but what a turnaround for me. From being thrown out of the bar that one night, and 86'd for a short time, I now had a cocktail waitress who believed with all her heart that I had saved her life. Drinking at the Virginia Cafe never got any better than that.

The best quote in the article:

“On this project, we need every financial incentive we can get to make it feasible,” DeMuro said.

Bill, I love that story. You have had a very eventful existence. It must have been pretty scary to think that a guy with a gun might be coming after you. My bet is that there was some kind of instinctual imprinting that was going on with her, because one second she encountered a really bad guy, which caused her to run like hell, and then she encountered a really good guy who made a split second decision to head to safety. There must have been a huge sense of relief on her part when the cop stopped. She sensed that you were a good person who would do your best to protect/help her, and that meant a lot to her. Hopefully that creep got a nice long prison sentence.

As for the community center, I think the plan is to build it to the west of the current high school. I think DeMuro is getting the building only, not all of the empty land to the west of it. Obviously, Buckman deserves a community center, but rehabbing the old building would get them less bang for the buck than building a new one from the ground up. Let's hope this becomes more of a priority than "Sustainability Centers" and "Bio-Gas" plants.

Seems like Portland is still way behind Seattle on conversions like this. Over twenty years ago the Wallingford School just west of UofW was converted into condos. The neighborhood was successful in getting a community center in the building that served both the occupants as well as the neighborhood.

Good read Bill!

Apartments are a much better use than filling the building with mindless drones working for Portland Public schools and not actually teaching children...

It should be a Buckman Art Center like the Multnomah Art Center, or something. Imagine the value of that to the inner SE neighborhoods! But, socializing risk, privatizing profit and outright give-aways in condo development are so much more sexy to the pols. We need 100% turnover in the PPS board and management as well as city hall, and to ban the whole urban renewal scam like they did in California.

I heard something about a public agency already paying PPS $5 million for the property, which was already in public ownership, Now it is being sold to that private developer for $2 million. A $3 million dollar gift to a private developer before the thing is even out of the gate? If true, everyone involved should go to jail. From the sound of it, he will get $10 million in public subsidies, some additional in waived taxes and who knows what else. Unbelievable.

It will probably pale in comparison to the conversion to private profit of Lincoln, however. Quadruple all those numbers and you will get the preliminary starting "liars budget". Multiply by four again to get the total hit. Plunder of the commons, brought to you by supposed lefties, ostensibly for the public good.

Exactly what are the supposed public benefits of these travesties? Portland really needs another beautiful common asset turned into a sterile private condo hive? This will benefit the neighborhood exactly how? Who will want to live in this empty, echoing mausoleum? Try to imagine inviting a date home to one of those carved-up classroom hidy-holes, or bringing a baby home to it. Who will want to do that, and how would it benefit the community even if they did? It begs to be the kind of mass participatory community gathering place it was designed to be. Imagine participatory dance and theater and art studios and people coming and going from early morning to late at night.

I think Jack needs a common assets theft roll like his wine roll. Needs to have year of transfer, primary named beneficiary, public officials who green-lighted it and total value of public give-away. This is the community property equivalent of logging forest park! Why not site a PUD in Laurelhurst Park? Makes no more sense than either of those ideas.

Write in Dennis Kuchinich for all the election slots. We need public officials who take their jobs as custodians of common public goods like central common gathering places seriously, not people who engage in a contest to see who can give away the most the fastest. Where are the candidates who will preserve and build the commons, not help see it stripped and plundered?

According to Portland online the market value of the property is $3,308,270.00 for 2011.
And these isn't any appreciable devaluing of the property in previous years.

The RMV as determined by the County Assessor is not a reliable indication of the true value of any property. Personally, I believe this sale and conversion to practical use is long overdue. PPS should be aggressively selling these old, unused buildings. The claim that they may need them some time in the future is bogus - (1) does PPS really think that attendance is going to return to baby-boom levels?, and (2) the cost of returning the building to classroom use would be prohibitive (many school buildings, like Washington High, are of masonary construction and the cost of seismic upgrades alone would be out of sight); it would be cheaper to build new buildings if enrollment increases dictated a need for additional space.

PPS hangs onto property long after it could serve any use to them.
Witness Kennedy school, PPS let the building deteriorate so badly I almost cried on the RFP walk through prior to the refurbishment by Mcmenamins.
I honestly didn't think it possible to revive the building it was in that bad of shape. And it got that way due to PPS neglect.
If it wasn't for some community activists PPS would have used the demo permit that had been issued and we would have ended up with yet another empty field. Like the old Whitiker/Adams site is now.

...it would be cheaper to build new buildings if enrollment increases dictated a need for additional space.

It would be cheaper to not build new buildings at this time, but to use the property as community open space and to keep that publicly owned land in public hands as an investment. It looks like playing Monopoly with our publicly owned land and how many times does the public have to buy again land they already own?

dyseptic:I heard something about a public agency already paying PPS $5 million for the property, which was already in public ownership,..

At any rate, we can't have it both ways here. We are being told millions are coming here, so if that is the case, we would need to keep that land as an investment in public hands.

This is not only abut old unused buildings. It is about the land. Land within the UGB is becoming more scarce, so how expensive would it be to buy new land in the future if needed for schools? The density and infill throughout our city - seems to me that the open space is needed more than ever and that public property is needed for those open space and/or community center needs. I do hope whatever happens in that neighborhood and/or building, that open space will remain available for the people in the community. The east side could use a public square for music events, etc. or a park like the Jamison Park in the Pearl or as dyseptic mentioned like the Multnomah Art Center. That Center is well used by that area and a wonderful place for the people.

dyseptic:Where are the candidates who will preserve and build the commons, not help see it stripped and plundered?

Good question, ask those that have been "deemed" the viable three whether they will make a commitment to preserve our commons?
Then ask those other candidates who cared enough about our city to run despite the insider game here whether they will make a commitment to preserve our commons?
I think many of us already know who is for what here.

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