Support a good plan for Oak Grove's Concord property
Design concepts for reuse of the Concord School property in Oak Lodge are now taking shape with the help of consultants working with a task force made up of local citizens. Members of the public now have the opportunity to comment on alternatives for providing a community and recreation center, library and park on the property. An online public opinion survey will be provided through Aug. 2 at Clackamas County's "Oak Lodge and Gladstone Community Project" website at clackamas.us/communityproject.
Over five years have passed since Oak Lodge citizens first began suggesting ideas for community uses of the Concord property following its closure as an elementary school. Convinced by the citizens that this iconic landmark should be preserved and repurposed for community benefits, the North Clackamas School District and North Clackamas Parks & Recreation District (NCPRD) negotiated a property trade, putting the property under NCPRD ownership. In approving the trade, Rein Vaga, then-school board chair, acknowledged the community's sentiments in saying, "Concord School is the heart and soul of this community."
Interests in future uses of the property have since grown beyond its capacity. Even the most needed uses, as they have been envisioned by community members, would collectively exceed the sizes and capabilities of the existing building and grounds, which makes it necessary to prioritize, compromise and balance interests. Oak Lodge has long been in need of more park spaces, a community center and a much-improved library, which underscores the need for a fair and balanced planning decision for the limited space. Assuring this balance is the responsibility of Clackamas County's Board of Commissioners, acting in their roles as lead decision-makers for both NCPRD and the Library District.
Among the alternatives, there is one that stands out as the best compromise and design. It does not involve adding a separate building, nor does it involve retrofitting all planned indoor uses to the existing building. Its initial cost is not one of the highest or lowest, although it offers long-term savings and other benefits with cost-efficient and user-friendly operations and improved energy efficiency. This alternative involves new construction joined to the existing building in a way that honors and preserves its landmark character. It offers welcoming visual presence with separate and distinct identities for the community center and library with easy access between them and the adjoining park. The needs of both interested service districts and their residents will be well-served by this alternative, with spaces available for a wide range of activities known to be of greatest interest. It's an alternative that the Concord Partnership Board can enthusiastically promote, and we expect it will be equally appreciated by others who advocate for long-term benefits of a well-designed community project, continuing Concord's long legacy of community support.
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