CANNON BEACH — Days after securing enough students to open the Cannon Beach Academy, the board of directors will have to find a new location before opening this fall.
The last-minute change came when the board received a cost estimate of $245,000 — more than $150,000 over the $90,000 they budgeted for construction costs. The original location on Sunset Boulevard would need to be renovated extensively to meet state school fire codes, board member Phil Simmons said.
“We budgeted $90,000 based on what my contractor friends told me, based on the square footage we were renovating,” Simmons said. “They weren’t envisioning code requirements for school.”
The board submitted their plans for the charter school more than two years ago, Simmons said, but weren’t able to get a formal estimate for construction until after submitting their building permit in March.
Board members are now seeking to lock down the former Preschool and Children’s Center at 3781 S. Hemlock, hoping to fast-track the process amid a looming fall opening.
When the board originally submitted their charter school plans to Seaside School District, the Children’s Center was not available, Simmons said.
But the Children’s Center closed in April 2016, and in a lot of ways, Simmons said the building is more suitable than the original location.
“We were going to outgrow the building on Sunset,” Simmons said. “In the Children’s Center, we can make this space work for the foreseeable future.”
Simmons said the building would take fewer, if any, renovations because it already meets many of the school building code requirements. It’s larger, includes a playground, and during a walk through, Simmons said Coaster Construction gave him a ballpark cost estimate of $50,000.
Being a stand-alone building also helps reduce cost, because the fire code requirements in the last location were dependent on the fact the space shared walls with other retail businesses, Simmons said. “When I got the email (with the estimate) I believed we were done. I didn’t have a plan to raise $150,000,” he said. “I’ve been surprised, within a day there was an outpouring of support of people determined to make this happen. To open this school it’s going to take that.”
School or housing?
Before the academy can start constructing anything, it must submit a conditional land use agreement to the city, City Manager Brant Kucera said.
Since the city owns the property, the City Council must vote to give permission to Kucera to go ahead with lease negotiations at the June 6 council meeting. Then the earliest the request can go before the Planning Commission for approval is June 22.
“The timeline is tight, but if nothing out of the ordinary happens, and the council decides to grant permission, then I think we can do it,” Kucera said.
However, the city has also designated the Children’s Center as an option for affordable housing in a strategic plan, Kucera said, with a vision of retrofitting the building into nine housing units. Affordable housing has remained a priority issue for Cannon Beach.
“We would be moving away from that plan,” Kucera said.
If councilors denied the property to the academy, or if the permitting and construction process don’t meet the fall deadline, Simmons said students enrolled would just be enrolled in Seaside School District.
“We’ll do what we can to move the process along to meet all of the deadlines if council chooses to move forward,” Kucera said.