The city wants input: Weigh in on the Capital Improvements Plan and the old Nathan Clifford School

If you had a 103-year-old former elementary school building, what would you do with it?

That’s one of the questions being posed far and wide by the city of Portland. Another is: What big ticket projects do you think the city should be planning for down the road?

Say what you want about the city government. But it’s hard to argue the folks at City Hall don’t at least get out there and collect public input. It seems like every other day I’m getting a notice about a public workshop being held in one place or another, soliciting ideas about a troublesome intersection, a neighborhood rock concert or — in this case — the Nathan Clifford School.

The school, built in 1909, was vacated by the Portland Public Schools last year after it opened the state-of-the-art Ocean Avenue Elementary School nearby. But that left the city owning a big, historic building with nothing in particular to do with it.

So, if you’d like to see it converted into an indoor water park, come to City Hall, Room 209, at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 2 and let city officials know.

If, in fact, you want to see it converted into an indoor water park and you don’t happen to have the cash around to buy the building and do the project yourself, you’ll also want to take advantage of the city’s on-line Capital Improvement Plan input forms, where you can urge the City Council to set aside millions of tax dollars for your proposed project.

Ideas about which large scale investments the city should be planning for as it looks ahead are being welcomed through the city website (click here) from now until Oct. 15.

Here’s a little context about what’s currently in the city’s CIP and the thinking behind those projects, as provided in a City Hall announcement this week:

This year’s CIP funds approximately sixty projects for $13 million, which will be paid for with municipal bonds and allocations in the city’s operating budget. Projects include $400,000 for the design and engineering of a replacement for Hall School. Due to its deteriorating site, Hall School is currently ranked twelfth on the state’s list of schools requiring major capital improvements. This allocation is the first step towards constructing a replacement. FY13 CIP also includes a $50,000 local match to fund the design and construction of the extension of a multi-use trail along the Fore River Parkway, which would allow pedestrians and bicyclists to safely travel from the city’s Transportation Center to the peninsula. $1.3 million has been allocated for the sewer separation project and road reconstruction along Deering Street, and a $250,000 local match for traffic improvement at the I295 Exit 6 interchange on Forest Avenue. These improvements were identified in the Transforming Forest Avenue Study and will improve lighting and access for pedestrians and bicyclists under the overpass. Also as a part of the Forest Avenue Study, the FY13 CIP includes the first half of a $510,000 local match to improve several major intersections including Woodfords Corner.

And if you wanted a little more background on the Nathan Clifford School, here is some information, also provided by the city, that came to my inbox as part of a separate release:

Named after US Supreme Court Justice Nathan Clifford, the school was opened to more than two hundred students April 1, 1909. The Justice’s grandson, also named Nathan Clifford, served as Portland’s Mayor in 1906 when the school’s construction began. Designed by renowned architect John Calvin Stevens and his son, John Howard Stevens, the Nathan Clifford School is a three-story building constructed of buff brick at a cost of $135,057. The building, which totals 44,288 square feet, contains 16 classrooms laid out in an H-shape, with one classroom anchoring each corner of the structure.

My only advice is: Don’t get too terribly attached to the water park idea.

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Seth Koenig

About Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.