The “eyesore” on the Port Townsend High School campus is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Boarded up and unused for years, it has the potential of being a shining example of Port Townsend’s historic past, taking its place among such landmarks as the Jefferson County Courthouse.
The restoration will involve seismic retrofitting, code upgrades and repurposing the building to meet current needs. What greater need do we have (other than combatting the coronavirus) than creating safe and sound housing for our low-income residents?
Four years ago the Peninsula Housing Authority (PHA) presented a plan to the Port Townsend School District superintendent to transform the Lincoln Building into apartments for low-income seniors. As a PHA board member, I participated in that meeting. Part of the plan included a mentoring program between seniors and students, a program that has been successful in other communities. This was a win-win proposal, beneficial to the city, its residents and students.
PHA staff and board, at the invitation of the school superintendent, toured the building with representatives of a development company. PHA’s outside experts found the building to be a good candidate for redevelopment. PHA and its consultants have been successful in the proposed type of redevelopment. Financing for the project would be from state and federal assistance, little expense to the city and none to the school district. Plans were drawn providing 43 housing units. So what became of the project? The school superintendent retired and his replacement rejected the project.
So here’s the hope: The school board is currently searching for a new superintendent. Hopefully they will have the foresight to hire someone able to lead in a new direction, one that will preserve our city’s heritage and help its residents.