County funded a 3D visioning plan for former church building

The folks at Youth Music Project hope to make its new building in the Willamette neighborhood as harmonious on the outside as it is within. And, thanks to a county grant, those hopes will soon come to VERN UYETAKE - Piano instructor Caroline Doctor helped Alex Aghdaei with his fingering technique at Youth Music Project last year.

Future rockers, pop stars and country crooners will soon have a larger home. Back in December, the West Linn Planning Commission approved a conditional use permit for a youth community center operated by Youth Music Project.

The center will be located at the former Willamette Falls Christian Church at Willamette Falls Drive and 10th Street. The 12,385-square-foot space will accommodate up to 1,000 youths a week, according to Youth Music Project Executive Director Charles Lewis.

The nonprofit, which is currently housed across the street, teaches drums, guitar and piano to students primarily in the West Linn-Wilsonville School District, but also attracts students from Lake Oswego, Oregon City and Tualatin.

Launched in 2012 and funded by the Marie Lamfrom Charitable Foundation, Youth Music Project aims to bring pop, rock and country music to all students.

The new location is planned to offer youth music instruction, group lessons, private lessons, bands and day camps in 22 classrooms. There will also be a store selling musical accessories, a waiting area for adults and a coffee shop.

Though renovations are set for the inside of the former church, the outside is dated and does not reflect the historic Willamette neighborhood or its new use.

When West Linn Economic Development Director Chris Kerr told Lewis about a grant through Clackamas County, he jumped at the chance. Lewis and a county representative told the West Linn City Council about the grant and its outcome during its April 8 meeting.

The county started the Main Street Program, which is in conjunction with Oregon Main Street, in 2008 to help communities rebuild and revitalize. According to the county’s website, “The goal is to build high quality, livable and sustainable communities that will grow Clackamas County’s economy.”

Communities that have participated in the Main Street Program include Canby, Happy Valley, Lake Oswego and Wilsonville.

As part of the program, the county offers $5,000 grants for the 3D Downtowns Program, which uses 3D technology to plan modeling and remodeling projects. The Clackamas County Business and Economic Development Department contracts with LRS Architects and Marketek Inc. to conduct the plans for grant recipients.

Last year, visioning projects included creating density downtown (Sandy), infill development, reuse of alleys (Lake Oswego), creating downtown housing opportunities and creating new mixed-use development. According to Catherine Comer with the county’s business and economic development team, the county granted eight projects. This year there are three projects.

According to the website, the goal of the visioning process is to spur private investment in downtown districts. And that is exactly what has occurred with Youth Music Project.

Shortly after using the visioning process to redesign the exterior of the Youth Music Project building, the nonprofit secured $400,000 from a funder to implement the plan.

“The $5,000 helped us look at the exterior of the building,” Lewis told the city council. “We think we’ve found a funder to fund the $400,000 needed for the exterior renovation directly thanks to this grant.”

“This was an amazingly fun project to work on,” Comer said.

“We look at this as a small or micro feasibility study,” Greg Mitchell of LRS Architects said, adding this project was especially fun because of the music theme and incorporating that into the design. “It has a little bit of whimsy.”

The new design of the building includes a courtyard and new entry with a canopy facing the street front. Currently, the main entrance is in the back adjacent to the parking lot. The canopy includes large-scale drums and drumsticks as columns to support it.

The plan also adds architectural features and all new windows to blend in with the historic neighborhood. As a nod to the church’s former life, the plan includes new music-themed stained glass windows.

“It will be rather dramatic,” Mitchell said.

At the rear of the building, a new vestibule will be offset by a grand piano repurposed as a planter. Along the side of the building, a trellis on a wall will resemble a music staff and notes.

“I can’t tell you how excited we are at Clackamas County to participate in this,” Comer said. “We’re really excited that this will be a project.”

For more information about Youth Music Project, visit

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