City Mulls New Course for Old Library after Estimated Cost of Redevelopment Tops $3M

The city’s thinking with regard to the former library building in downtown Canby may be changing. So would yours, if your project estimates came in $3 million over budget.

The city had hoped to redevelop the property as a co-working space, public market and small business incubator. This has been the planned direction for the building since negotiations on a long-term lease fell through with Canby Brewing Company last March.

A full redesign was in the works for the former library, which had been the Canby Coast to Coast Hardware store before that, including new windows, roll-up garage doors, skylights, carpet removal and concrete polish.

Other, less sexy improvements were also needed, like asbestos removal, and the walls and hardware necessary to transform a largely open floor plan into a space with distinct, rentable commercial spaces. To make this possible would have also required new bathrooms, new plumbing and a greatly upgraded HVAC system.

The city had budgeted $500,000 toward the redevelopment project, and also secured a grant from the Oregon Main Street Revitalization Program for an additional $200,000. Unfortunately, according to Canby Economic Development Director Jamie Stickel, $700,000 won’t touch it.

Those numbers came in from LRS Architects, the firm contracted by the city to provide interior design and cost estimates. If you think $3.5 million sounds high, you’re not alone, but as City Administrator Scott McClure explained, it does make sense when you really consider the scope of the project.

All hope is not lost. As luck would have it, the city has recently received word from several parties who might be interested in leasing the property or purchasing it outright.

The city has been down this road before, and recently. They issued requests for proposal in 2017 and 2018, seeking interested users to assist in the redevelopment and use of the space. They got several offers each time, but nothing ultimately came of them, most likely because the two sides were unable to come to terms on the financial aspects of the deal.

But, if the city can find the right partner, there are plenty of benefits to this route, including saving public funds on the redevelopment. If the property sells outright, the building could soon be back on the tax rolls, and several councilors mentioned they weren’t crazy about the idea of the city being a landlord anyway.

If all else fails, there’s always one thing that could be done with the building, and for a lot less than $3.5 million: Tear it down and put in a parking lot. Councilor Tryg Berge estimated that such a lot could easily translate to as many as 75 parking spots — something that’s not a pressing need right now, but that could change as downtown Canby continues to grow.

The next step would be to reopen the request for proposals, which is likely to have a tighter deadline than it has in years past since there is already existing interest in the property.

The book’s not closed on this one yet. Stay tuned to the Canby Now Podcast. We’ll keep you posted.

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