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Future of Association Building remains unsettled

by: FILE PHOTO - Although suggested options were recently presented at the Jan. 13 urban renewal meeting, the use for the Association Building is undetermined.After spending about $50,000 on a feasibility report originated in May, the decision for revitalizing the Association Building, which has been vacant since the 1993 earthquake, remains in limbo.

Four suggested options for use of the building were presented by Constructive Form Architecture and Design LLC at the Jan. 13 urban renewal meeting. The agency received the options after collecting community surveys from 115 people, where 26 surveys were administered via phone, email and personal interviews and 85 surveys were completed at three community events.

“There was a lot of information. The consultants provided a good overview of the building,” said Jim Hendryx, Woodburn’s economic and development services director. “Its limitations and its potential spells out some viable alternatives for uses.”

The first model presented the property act as a neighborhood activity center. The report stated 32 percent of respondents strongly support finding a community use for the building. If chosen, the space additionally has potential for development of a youth or technology room, a flex room, small scale break-out spaces and a gallery space in the atrium, according to the report.

Design concepts show a multi-purpose facility that combines a restaurant and café located on Front Street, which has potential to be rented to a private entity for additional income.

A business incubator with a studio arts focus, the report’s second concept model, is designed to incorporate small offices, studios, a gallery and meeting space to support a potential studio arts business according to the report. Thirty-eight percent of respondents were interested in pursuing the option.

“The studio arts focus will complement the downtown area by diversifying business variety and attracting more visitors to adjacent existing businesses,” the report stated.

The third concept model represented a micro brewpub or beverage distillery that would attract residents and tourists as a destination establishment. This concept plans to increase diversity of restaurants to attract more downtown traffic.

The report stated that as Woodburn continues to grow in the coming years, demand for restaurant and entertainment space will increase significantly.

If all else fails, there is the option of the city selling the empty shell without an identified use, which includes either upgrading and completing the building’s baselines or selling it in its current condition.

Although 32 percent of respondents revealed an interest in this option, it minimizes the city’s financial exposure.

Each concept model stated in the report is estimated to cost about $2.6 million, which includes direct construction costs, soft costs and associated development costs.

Looking at the average downtown building’s value, City Councilor Lisa Ellsworth mentioned that putting the costly building next to reduced neighboring businesses seems excessive.

“I could think of a lot of better ways to spend $2.5 million,” she said. “I look forward to sitting down with the other members of the Urban Renewal Agency and discussing the different possibilities, not only with the Association Building, but our strategic vision for urban renewal funds.”

According to Hendryx, Woodburn’s Urban Renewal Agency Board will schedule a meeting to continue the discussion at an unspecified date. No schedule is available to view regarding the agency’s next move.

“We are internally discussing next steps,” said Hendryx. “It’s important to get with the agency, find out their informational needs and then set out a step-by-step process to lead to a decision point.”



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