‘Grange’ concept pitched for surplus County building

Although the historic building and property are available for sale to any qualified buyer, see which organizations have worked together to make a bid to take over this former “Carnegie Library” …

Considering its age, this stately building near SE Holgate Blvd. and SE Foster Rd. looks to be in great condition – and it’s for sale.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
On November 1, Multnomah County District 3 Commissioner Judy Shiprack invited out prospective buyers and neighbors to tour of the Wikman Building, located in the Foster-Powell neighborhood.

The 93-year-old, red-brick-faced building at 4420 SE 64th Avenue may not ring a bell – but it’s the classic one-story structure just off SE Holgate Blvd. that was formerly called the “Carnegie Library”, and was later known as the Arleta Library.

The classic design of this building was created by noted Portland architect Folger Johnson, nearly 100 years ago.

Although the building hasn’t served as a library for four decades, Multnomah County has used the 5,200-square-foot building for a variety of purposes, most recently as a service center for county juvenile justice programs.

“No description that I can give you of these towering ceilings and arched windows and all the light that floods into this room would do it justice,” exclaimed County Commissioner Judy Shiprack, as she welcomed visitors into the building’s great room.

“One can almost see shelves full of books, and people browsing the shelves, or sitting at tables reading,” Shiprack enthused.

“This building is now for sale,” the Commissioner added. “It is surplus property; and we are having public comment, and sending out a notice to commercial brokers of real estate. I am out collecting thoughts about his sale here in the neighborhood.”

Multnomah County Commissioner Judy Shiprack talks with a neighbors who came by to see the building.

The neighborhood is concerned about some uses that might not be quite as family friendly as others, she said. Neighbors who stopped by for a look said they hoped it wouldn’t be turned into a mini-mart, or worse – a “gentleman’s club”.

“We are hoping that there is a use for this building that will be an asset to the community, one that would retain the beautiful, historic look of a Carnegie Library.”

Shiprack referred to the area as a “really gifted neighborhood”, since SE Foster Road is thought to be on its way to being an up-and-coming area. “The building has on-street parking, and there are bus lines here. The neighborhood has lots of younger families, and has affordable housing.”

The structure is zoned “storefront commercial”, and has an assessed value, with the property, of $505,340, according to Mike Sublett of Multnomah County Facilities, who was at the building to answer questions. “The appraised value in 2006 was $750,000.”

The high ceilings and windows make what was once the main room of the library an open and inviting space.

Our tour of the facility showed that it does have a modern HVAC plant, up- to-date wiring, and it has been well maintained.

A non-profit organization, ROSE Community Development Corporation, partnering with the Southeast Uplift Neighborhood Coalition, the Foster Area Business Association (FABA), and the Foster-Powell Neighborhood Association, made it clear in a November 2 joint letter to the County Commissioners that they were interested in acquiring the property, with an eye to turning it into a “grange”.

“The ‘Neighborhood Grange’ re-envisions [the historic county grange organizations] meeting the challenges and taking advantage of the opportunities facing twenty-first century Portland,” the document states.

ROSE’s Executive Director, Nick Sauvie, was out of town at a conference at press time, and was unavailable to comment on the proposal.

Perhaps this building will become a modern “grange”, if the plans of a consortium of nonprofit groups materialize.

Nancy Chapin, FABA’s Executive Director, told us, “Anything that creates a space for people to gather is a positive for the Foster area. It will help create a ‘sense of place’, and create a stronger connection between neighbors and Foster-area businesses – as well as attract folks from around the greater Portland area to Foster Road.”

Although the public comment period was open only for a week, there were indications that the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners would consider comments after November 7, since the staff won’t be reporting back to the Board until December 22.

Submit any written communications to Multnomah County Communications Office, 501 S.E. Hawthorne, Suite 600, Portland 97214 – or e-mail to communications@multco.co.us

© 2011 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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