OP/ED: You never know what you got till it’s gone.

By Randy Kugler
Manzanita may never again get another such opportunity for doing something worthy of its collective creative spirit. The McMenamin brothers must have heard all of the reasons why old “ugly” buildings no longer had any practical use and should be placed in the closest landfill to make room for something new. They seem to have done quite well in ignoring the conventional wisdom that condemned their signature establishments as unworthy of reuse.
“Started in 1974 by the McMenamins brothers, the Oregon-based company has been reusing old buildings that once served as schools, churches, theaters and homes. They recognized the local values and potentials of these abandoned buildings, as well as the environmental responsibility in restoring old buildings – they also use recycled materials wherever possible in new construction. Thus, McMenamins is a great example for adaptive reuse, adding new values to the old buildings for the future while paying respect to their histories”. (Traveling Circus of Urbanism article July 2018)

Nowhere in the extensive WRK structural engineering report on the school did the engineer recommend that the building be demolished. Both the WRK structural engineer and the original architect that worked with the Public Facilities Advisory Committee (PFAC) stated during their 2 hour October 2018 meeting with the City Council that the school could be remodeled to serve the City’s needs. The new build construction costs being used by the PFAC at that time of $180 – $200 sq. ft. suggested to me that a remodel may not be a cost effective option. Only when Committee member Lee Hiltenbrand and I voiced concerns over these low new build cost figures did the architect consult with his companies’ construction estimator and in November advise the Committee that yes indeed the costs being used were wrong and the Committee would need to use $450 – $600 sq. ft. to get a new build structure with better quality finishes and LEED components. The City is now using Steele Architecture’s cost estimates of $500 – $600 sq. ft. for their building that will require 31 years of debt to pay off. Clearly, a remodel option at an estimated cost of $235 – $250 sq. ft. is certainly worthy of further investigation and an option to present to citizens.
The uncertified engineer that the City called in at the last minute to get a second opinion concluded that the school should be demolished in a 3 minute presentation to the City Council which apparently was all the Council really wanted to hear as they did not even ask him a single question as to how he arrived at that conclusion. Scott Steele, the current architect for the new build design stated at the second community meeting that remodels can be more expensive than new construction but admitted to a citizen after the meeting that he had not read the WRK report or its cost analysis to repair and strengthen the school for reuse. The basic repair and strengthening costs used by WRK have been supplemented with estimates from an experienced local contractor and subcontractors to get to the above remodel cost estimates as a move in ready building.

Rendering of remodel option for Manzanita City Hall. Provided by Randy Kugler

Manzanita celebrates the uniqueness of CARTM and its reuse /recycle leadership and the fact that the City was the first coastal community to ban the use of plastic bags all in the name of environmental stewardship. Reusing building materials and diverting demolition materials from a landfill all contribute to LEED points which are not available for new construction so why did the City decide to not give citizens the opportunity to even have this discussion and prevent approximately 500 dump truck loads of building material from being hauled to the landfill?
Renovating an existing building that has an historic and architectural style tied to early Manzanita takes some extraordinary vision. Reusing and designing a facility that can accommodate all of the goals for a City Hall and emergency response site at less than half the cost of the only choice that the City decided to offer citizens just takes some common sense. If you want the opportunity to have these conversations with the Mayor and Council, the first step is to vote no on their Bond measure.