It was built to last, and for more than a century it has done just that.
But the former Woodburn City Hall building at 550 First Street has not done much more than last, or endure, over the past four decades. Constructed in 1914 the stalwart edifice has attained an elite, venerable classification; it's one of only a three buildings in town with National Register of Historic Places status.
But for all its rock-solid endurance, usage of the more than 12,000 square-foot space that is embedded on about a quarter-acre of the First and Lincoln-street block has been sparse since 1977, the year it ceded its city hall title.
Save for a short-lived restaurant in the fire-hall portion of the building, none seems to recall much else happening on the premises. There have been some visions accompanied by dreams of a makeover and rebirth with a new purpose, but none have come to fruition.
But a new spark, ignited by a grant from the Oregon Main Street Revitalization group, has refreshened the vision.
City of Woodburn announced on May 3 that it received the OMSR grant, a $200,000 sum that will be dedicated to sprucing up the building. City officials stressed taht they will be working closely with property owner Anthony Young to help see this through.
Young took possession of the structure in 2017 when he purchased it through a foreclosure auction for $390,000. City sources said he has since been working closely with architects, contractors and the city to devise a redevelopment plan that would serve community needs; that appears to include a mix of commercial space and apartment housing. Some chatter of office space has also surfaced.
The interest and energy provide a welcome infusion.
"For the ten years I have been with Woodburn, the old city hall building has remained vacant and, from time to time, been problematic," City Administrator Scott Derickson said, citing vandalism and vagrancy among issues that have emerged from its vacancy. "But, the really exciting part of the grant award is that it will leverage an additional $500,000 in private financing and potentially $100,000 in URA (urban renewal) grants.
"This means the grant award will actual create an $800,000 renovation project with the goal of putting the building back into productive use for the benefit of everyone," he noted. "We're really excited to see this project, which just lends to the energy and transformation occurring downtown."
Redevelopment plans envision adapting the second and third floor areas for use as apartment dwellings, while commercial usage would be confined to the basement and once firehouse wing on the building's south end.
Those adaptations would be regulated by city development-code standards, while the building's structural features – high ceilings, original wood floors, windows, woodwork and doors – would be preserved to furthest extent possible.
City sources noted that commercial redevelopment could provide accommodations for a restaurant in the former firehouse and possibly a portion of the basement. That's one scenario; other commercial uses would be considered for the redevelopment as well.
The firehouse interior would retain the high ceilings and characteristics of its former use. The jail cells remain in the basement and could be an interesting attribute to a commercial business.
Exterior changes would be, at most, minimal. Plans call for retaining its historic characteristics, and limiting work to necessary maintenance and cosmetic applications such as cleaning, graffiti removal, and repairs of broken windows, frames, roofing needs and accent painting.
The property owner will also work with the city to determine the best method to incorporate any required ADA improvements without altering the historic integrity of the building.
The revitalization grants are distributed through Oregon Heritage, a division of Oregon Parks and Recreation Department. The group awarded 30 matching grants worth $5,244,261 to main-street organizations or groups statewide.
Grant sizes ranged from $56,731 to $200,000, while the projects ranged from façade improvements to housing and seismic upgrades.
Quality local journalism takes time and money, which comes, in part, from paying readers. If you enjoy articles like this one, please consider supporting us.
(It costs just a few cents a day.)