Whitaker-Adams, Ball buildings will be torn down, Ball land sold

Two old and deteriorating public schools - Whitaker-Adams School and Ball Elementary - will be torn down this month, opening the door to new development on those pieces of land in North and Northeast Portland.

The demolition of the Whitaker-Adams building, 5700 N.E. 39th Ave., is slated to begin Oct. 10 and last three months.

Crews will work first to remove the hazards, such as mold, that shut the school down in 2000. The 30-year-old building has been vandalized while it's been vacant, costing the district $125,000 per year in maintenance including graffiti cleanup, utilities and security measures.

The district will borrow $2 million to demolish the building and landscape the site, saving a 3.5-acre portion for a future school to be built, pending voters' approval of a capital bond measure.

The district plans to put the remaining six acres up for sale in late November, said Kerry Hampton, the district's property development manager. He expects any one of hundreds of developers who already have expressed interest to snatch it up. The site is zoned residential and could fit about 45 to 50 houses on 4,000-square-foot lots, Hampton said.

About five miles away, the Ball Elementary building, 4221 N. Willis Blvd., also is slated to be torn down in mid-October, taking three to four weeks, Hampton said. It is much smaller than the Whitaker-Adams site and doesn't have the same major environmental hazards.

The aging school was replaced by Rosa Parks Elementary, 8960 N. Trenton St., at the New Columbia housing development. The school board last week declared the Ball site surplus property and authorized its sale to the city of Portland for $800,000.

Discussions about the future of the two-acre site have begun. City Commissioner Dan Saltzman hopes to donate the land to a nonprofit organization called Portland Hope Meadows.

It's modeled on the first Hope Meadows center, outside Chicago, an intergenerational community of homes for foster families. It gives families free rent, health care benefits and a salary for taking in hard-to-place foster children. Senior citizens who live there receive a rent discount for committing 10 hours per week as foster grandparents, tutors and baby sitters.

Saltzman will present the idea to the City Council in upcoming weeks, having broached the concept to the Portsmouth Neighborhood Association earlier this year.

The neighborhood association, however, has different ideas in mind.

President Tatiana Xenelis said most neighbors who live around the Ball site wanted to see a North Portland library branch there. A survey of 40 households showed that other preferred uses included an assisted-living center, senior day-care center, charter school, park and homes for sale. Forty-eight percent supported Saltzman's idea.

'We'll certainly bring those ideas up,' Xenelis said. 'Just keep us involved.'

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