City could share in sale proceeds if plan goes through

by: VERN UYETAKE - The old Lake Oswego Armory might finally have a new owner. Park Academy is now working to earn the city's approval to use the property for a school.When Park Academy opened in 2005, the private school served about 15 students with dyslexia and other language learning difficulties in borrowed space on the Marylhurst University campus.

Today, with 53 students enrolled and more on a waiting list, the school is at capacity. Students, teachers and administrators are feeling the squeeze.

“We need more space,” said Kim Barton, Park Academy’s admissions director. “Marylhurst has been wonderfully gracious in letting us spread out into their buildings, but sometimes their classes need the space, and we need it but don’t have it.

“We need something dedicated to classrooms, to technology, to a gym.”

Park Academy appears to have found that space. The academy is poised to move to the vacant Lake Oswego Armory on Southshore Boulevard.

School representatives recently struck a deal with the Oregon Military Department to buy the property for about $2.5 million. But there’s a catch: The agreement hinges on the city of Lake Oswego approving a zone change and any necessary permits.

If all goes according to plan, Park Academy will remodel the armory building, constructed in the 1950s, giving it a brick façade, a new roof, windows and landscaping and a play area out back. Students could begin classes there in fall of 2014.

The roughly 23,000-square-foot building sits on just more than 5 acres of land and is often mentioned as one of the last available large, buildable lots in the city. The military hasn’t used it since about 2010.

“This takes a lot of work because it’s a very old building, and everything needs to be brought up to code,” said Andy Pihl, vice president of Park Corporation, who represents the foundation that supports Park Academy. “What’s there now versus what will be there a year from now, if we’re successful, will be radically improved for the neighborhood.”

In the bigger space, Park Academy would be able to serve up to 120 students, although Pihl doesn’t think the school will enroll that many.At a neighborhood meeting, residents asked questions about the number of students and teachers, about potential traffic, school hours and about dyslexia, Pihl said.

“Once people have been informed they warm up to it really nicely,” he said. “We would be a very good neighbor — a quiet, aesthetically pleasing neighbor. ... It’s a bunch of very nice, high-achieving kids who just have a different way of learning.”

The site was chosen out of three or four possibilities in the area. School leaders targeted locations that could fit a roughly 25,000-square-foot building with enough surrounding land for parking and a sports field or play area.

“And we wanted it to be close to the existing site,” Pihl said, noting they zeroed in on Lake Oswego locations to avoid disrupting students’ routines by moving too far from Park Academy’s longtime location on the Marylhurst campus.

Other options included vacant land in Stafford, an unincorporated part of Clackamas County, and an older building in the city that didn’t have enough space for outdoor play areas.

The potential sale could be a boon for the city government, as Lake Oswego will benefit from the proceeds.

Brig. Gen. Mike Caldwell of the Oregon Military Department previously said the sale would be a “partnership deal” with the city of Lake Oswego because of the way the military received the land about 50 years ago.

At one point it was county property, but the county handed it over to the city, and the city then gave it to the military to use as an armory facility.

It’s unclear how much money the city could receive. Caldwell could not be reached this week to comment directly, although he did send an email about the ongoing process involving the city and academy.

“If approved,” Caldwell wrote, “using the facility in this manner could provide the best value to the community.”

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