CANNON BEACH — After years of expressing interest, committee meetings and council discussions, the city is close to a $400,000 deal to purchase the old Cannon Beach Elementary School from the Seaside School District.
“We have a sales agreement drawn up by our legal counsel, and now it’s in the hands of the Cannon Beach city manager,” Sheila Roley, the school superintendent, said Sept. 10.
City Manager Bruce St. Denis confirmed the City Council and school board have authorized staff to enter negotiations to develop a contract for the purchase. “Right now the intent is to acquire the property,” he said.
The Beaver Street property became vacant in 2013 after the school district closed the school because of tsunami fears.
The city owns land all around it, St. Denis said, and the property holds a high value from a historical standpoint. “There’s definitely a sentimental tie to the city for the location,” he said.
Cannon Beach Elementary is one of four schools to relocate out of the tsunami inundation zone, including Seaside High School, Broadway Middle School and Gearhart Elementary School. Each is being marketed as the school district prepares a move to a new campus in Seaside’s Southeast Hills.
Since its closure, residents and officials have expressed interest in purchasing the Cannon Beach property for a number of potential uses, including a community center, museum or concert venue.
The Clatsop-Nehalem Confederated Tribes has also shown interest in preserving the building as a cultural landmark.
In 2016, the building was appraised at $450,000, with an additional estimated need for interior and exterior renovations of $371,000. While most of the classrooms in the 1950s-era building would be unusable, an engineering report concluded the gym was considered in good condition.
As the school remained vacant, the city continued to maintain interest in the property, inspired by a survey showing 77% of residents believe developing the school into a community center is a priority.
Last fall, the Cannon Beach History Center & Museum offered $400,000 for the school, but later delayed their purchase decision.
That’s when the city stepped in, St. Denis said, ultimately submitting a letter of interest to the school district in mid-August.
The property is zoned institutional, which allows city functions, schools or churches, but not homes, condominiums or commercial development, he said.
What will ultimately be located in the space remains to be determined.
“We’re absolutely considering an interpretive or event center,” St. Denis said. “We have a lot of hotels that are not large enough to have a room that would allow them to have meetings.”
Whether the buildings will be saved remains a matter of discussion.
“While we may be able to use the buildings later on, it’s our intent to move forward either way,” St. Denis said. “It may turn out the buildings are too expensive to rehab. It doesn’t mean we did the wrong thing. If we can make use of the buildings that are on the site, that would be a great benefit. I think the community’s very excited about the possibility. ”