Manzanita OKs Civic Center Land Purchase

By David Dillon, Freelance Writer, Manzanita

The Manzanita City Council voted unanimously at their Sep. 5 meeting to proceed with buying the 2.67-acre “Underhill Plaza” property as the site for a future civic center, which would include a new city hall, police station, and emergency preparedness facility. The purchase proposal was first announced at the council’s May 3 meeting.
The commercial lot is located at the northeast corner of Manzanita Avenue and Division Street, and is owned by the Underhill family of Nehalem. The building was originally the Pine Grove Elementary School until that facility was closed in the early 1960s. Howell’s Floor Covering, North Coast Watchman Services, and the Center for Contemplative Arts currently occupy the site.

The city will purchase the property for $1.75 million. That figure is under the original $2.25 million asking price, and half of what the Underhill family was offered by a local developer immediately after word of the city’s initial agreement with the owner went public.
Since the May announcement, the city has had experts analyze the property for environmental hazards. At the Sep. 5 meeting, City Manager Jerry Taylor told the council an Aug. 8 inspection found evidence of asbestos in several parts of the building. An initial estimate for removing the material before ultimate demolition of the facility came to between $60,000 and $75,000.
Another inspector, looking at the site on Aug. 25, was unable to locate the site of the original heating fuel tank, which is reported to have been drained, cut opened, and filled with sand sometime in the 1960s. Taylor said a third company, equipped with ground-penetrating radar, might be called in to find the exact site so the city can confirm if there is evidence of hydrocarbon contamination and whether it would have to be removed.
The land purchase will include a $400,000 down payment made upon closing, with the remainder financed by a 10-year loan from the same firm that financed the new Manzanita Visitors Center. Taylor said he was initially quoted a 2.72% interest rate, but the final rate could be 2.5%. Annual payments would be approximately $155,000. They would be made out of current revenues.
Separate financing would need to be arranged to build the new facility. Consolidating city offices in one place would free up the current 0.29-acre City Hall property on Laneda Avenue, and portions of the current 0.46-acre site of the former Manzanita Fire Station on S. Fifth Street. Both could be sold to help pay for the land or the new building construction.
Manzanita’s current City Hall was originally a service station and is in need of major renovations for both safety and access purposes. The old fire station currently houses the Manzanita Police Department. The city fire department was disbanded in 2009, when the Nehalem Bay Fire and Rescue District was formed.
Taylor told the council he planned to schedule a public meeting at the Pine Grove Community House on Oct. 13, at which the public would be asked to brainstorm ideas for what the new civic center should include.