County Moves Forward on Wikman Building; Redevelopment Remains an Option

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A 1950s photo of the Arleta Library at SE Holgate and 64th Avenue.

The former Arleta Library, known as the Wikman Building, moved one step closer to disposition today as the county re-opened the property for potential sale to a private developer.

By a 5-0 vote, the Multnomah County Commission moved to reissue a Request for Proposals (RFP) for the property. Although the terms of the RFP have not yet been determined, demolition and/or redevelopment remain in play.

The 1918 building was an original Carnegie library and was built on property purchased with contributions from local residents.

When the current library branch at 79th and Holgate opened in the 70s, the title to the old library was transferred to Multnomah County for $1. Since then, the county has used it for various purposes, including most recently as their Juvenile Justice Center.

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Mike Masat of ROSE CDC speaks to the Multnomah County Commission.

For more than two years, local neighborhoods have worked with ROSE Community Development to create a plan that would preserve the building and continue it in some kind of public use. Lack of onsite parking has been an obstacle for most uses of the property.

At today’s hearing, Commissioner Judy Shiprack described her “triple aim” for the property, which she described as “receiving the appraised market value, keeping the historic nature of the building, in other words not selling it to a developer who would scrape it and build high-density apartments or other uses that would not be positive, and also to keep a public access, public use for the building.”

But clearly, the county’s primary interest is in selling the property, which has been assessed at $260,000. The county spends approximately $30,000 per year to maintain the empty building.

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The Wikman Building main room today.

Various public forums over the last two years have identified community uses such as an Arts Center or small business incubator as the local preference for the building’s future.

Those plans would require local fundraising to cover the purchase of the property, rehabilitation costs and eventual operating expenses.

Commissioner Shiprack and county staff acknowledged the significant groundwork laid by ROSE in particular, who voluntarily shared their predevelopment and rehabilitation work with the county so that it can be used to inform their future discussions of the property.

County facilities manager Mike Sublette described the county’s next steps, which include an open forum early next month to get input on the terms of the RFP, with selection of the winning proposal this spring and sale of the property as soon as this summer.

He also indicated that he hoped to create a scoring committee for assessing the RFPs, and that he’d like to include members of the public as well as someone with expertise in redeveloping historic properties.

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Commissioner Judy Shiprack speaks to the County Commission about goals for the Wikman property.

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