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The next phase of the ongoing revitalization of cultural center centers on food

SUBMITTED RENDERING - The Culinary Enrichment Center will be constructed on the ground floor of the Chehalem Cultural Center, with a projected finish date by the end of the year.

The pleasures of food, with alluring aromas from ingredients and sauces that burst into a mouth-watering dish, will be served up soon at the Chehalem Cultural Center (CCC).

The CCC is preparing to renovate the remaining first floor space into a culinary enrichment center, thanks to a $250,000 grant from the city of Newberg's transient lodging tax in January. The culinary center will provide a staging area for caterers and others to prepare and serve food in venues around the CCC. The serving area will be indoors and will be a much-appreciated improvement during the wet season with the ability to grab a bite to eat out of the rain.

"This allows us to have venues throughout the year without restrictions with the rainy season," said CCC Director Sean Andries. "We had more than 40,000 visitors last year, with this we can increase that number and help with tourism through events."

There are a few other items on the menu as well: a multi-purpose space, tentatively named the Bridal Room, in the back that can be used as a behind the scenes meeting area. For example, the room can be used as a staging area for brides preparing for her big day.

Items from when the building was Central School now occupy the space that is planned for renovation, including stainless steel serving and kitchen preparation tables, a cooking vat and the old conveyor dishwasher. One of the first steps toward renovation is to find new homes for the vintage items and create a storage area for cherished ones. To make this happen, some walls will be razed, a ceiling installed and a bit of modernization undertaken.

"One of the most exciting parts of the project will be the addition of public restrooms where the old school cafeteria is now," Andries said. "These new restrooms will be accessible directly from the forecourt plaza and will not require that we open the entirety of our building to allow their use. This will make it possible for events to take place in the forecourt at times when the CCC is otherwise closed without needing us to staff the entire facility simply to allow restroom access."

"Educational programs will include both those aimed at helping connect visitors firsthand with leading voices in our region's culinary landscape, as well as those focused on offering ongoing educational opportunities for our community at large," a release from the CCC stated.

Friends of the Cultural Center added some funds to those received from the city and they are pursuing additional funds from foundations and other sources.

"We are really thankful for the award from TLT and the city. Securing funds from the TLT is an incredible boost to our proposals as we pursue funding from other sources and helps make us more competitive in granting processes," Andries said. "We have raised about two-thirds of our budget so we are making progress and getting things started. I think that we will make our goal to have this complete by the end of the year."

The building was built in 1935 as a school with a $15,500 grant from the Public Works Administration, plus a local bond for $35,000. Central School became inadequate to serve a growing population and was closed down in 1995 and its students transferred to the newly-constructed Antonia Crater Elementary School. In 1997 Chehalem Park and Recreation District bought the building from the school district for $1 with the stipulation that the building remain in the public domain.

Since then the CPRD has garnered grants and other funding to slowly remodel the building into galleries, classrooms, a conference room and a ballroom. The culinary center is the next phase of that renovation.

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