Elson Strahan, president and CEO of the Trust, said the Hiddens have agreed to sell the Academy for $10.6 million, more than $2 million less than its current listing price. He said the family has extended their offer to the nonprofit for one year because of their belief that the Trust provides the best hope for preservation and restoration of the historic property.
“We initiated some discussions with them (the Hiddens) about the possibility of the Trust making the acquisition and they were very excited because not only would the property transition to an organization that they support, but they know given our mission that the building will be preserved,” said Strahan.
While $10.6 million will enable the Trust to purchase the Academy building and property, Strahan said the remaining funds (approximately $5.4 million) raised would be dedicated to associated site review, professional capacity and building restoration.
“The obvious benefit to the community is that the stewardship of the Academy will be ensured long-term by the Trust’s oversight management of the property,” added Eric Fuller, head of the Trust’s properties committee.
In addition to enhancing the nonprofit’s portfolio of historic properties, Strahan said the Academy provides the Trust with an opportunity to develop other revenue sources that can support both the Academy site and Fort Vancouver. Strahan used Merchant’s Square, a historically inspired retail center at Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg, as an example.
“Colonial Williamsburg owns Merchant’s Square and they’ve developed it so that it’s complimentary and compatible with their historic site while financially helping to support it,” he explained. “With seven acres of bare land [on the Academy property], we would not only want to maintain the Academy as the iconic building that it is, but also to be able to master plan the site so that future development that takes place achieves the same goal.”
Ed Lynch, Fort Vancouver National Trust co-chair, agreed with Strahan’s idea that development on the Academy property holds great economic potential.
“We hope that we’ll have a restaurant or two in the redeveloped Academy area that might supplement what we have in the historic area,” said Lynch. “So if a family is spending the day at the historic area they might break off at noon and go eat at what is now the Hidden property.”
Extending the Trust’s reach
With the acquisition of the historic Academy building, the Trust will for the first time manage property west of Interstate 5 – a symbolic move, according to Stahan, as the Trust extends its reach closer to downtown Vancouver.
“Certainly as the Hudson Bay Company but also during the Army period, there was a very close relationship to the city of Vancouver and to the downtown core,” said Strahan. “There really was a great economic relationship between the two (the trust and downtown). The freeway had severed that, but with the [proposed Columbia River Crossing] community connector and physically being connected with the Academy, it really rejoins us to downtown.
“I think the future is bright in terms of our being able to re-forge that relationship between what the community considers the historic area and a very vibrant downtown,” he added.