By Barbara Doyle
Oregon law prefers surplus public property remain in the public domain. So Newberg’s Mayor, and the Superintendents of the Newberg School District and the Chehalem Parks and Recreation District [CPRD] met frequently to discuss ways to reach that goal. The school district did not want to keep that dilapidated building. It was put up for sale at $1,000,000. There were no buyers.
The Mayor briefly considered moving City Hall and the Police Department into the school building. Meeting the building code requirements for the Police Department were too expensive. The City lost interest. CPRD did not. At a May 1997 meeting, the School District Board even agreed to accept a ceremonial price of $1. The District’s attorney placed a one dollar bill on the table. The deal was sealed! What’s next?
CPRD urged local residents to support a $6.5 million dollar bond in May 1997 to renovate the building – to create office space for several local nonprofit service organizations. The bond was voted down. CPRD tried another bond measure in 1998. It met the same fate.
Park District board members wanted to utilize the building but their plans were vague. They realized that the building might not survive another earthquake. So CPRD sought, and secured, Federal funds [$500,000] to seismically upgrade the building. Meanwhile, community support was shifting and growing – to develop a cultural/arts center.
Participants in Yamhill County Jail’s work release program did all the demolition work on the building’s interior. All the wood – panels, doors, trim – was carefully removed and stored for future use.
Appearances matter. A new front entrance was patterned after that of Newberg Public Library. Rotary International celebrated its one hundredth anniversary by developing the very successful Rotary Centennial Park on the east side of the school building. Newberg’s Chamber of Commerce moved into rooms on the west side.
|Courtesy of Chehalem Parks and Recreation Department.|
About a dozen Newberg residents worked behind the scene to develop a plan for a cultural/arts center. They secured a Ford Family Foundation grant to conduct a feasibility study in 2005. Anticipating strong community support, the old school building was renamed Chehalem Cultural Community Center – and then promptly shortened to Chehalem Cultural Center.
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