City of Manzanita eyes Underhill Plaza for potential relocation site

Underhill Plaza

By Brian Cameron

With no official timeframe to rely upon the rumors solidify to fact regarding the process to move the Manzanita City Hall to a new location, known as Underhill Plaza.

“There’s a number of reasons we want to move forward with moving city hall,” said Mayor of Manzanita Mike Scott. “We need to get a new location because I think its become obvious the old gas station is just not big enough for the city’s needs.”

The proposed area the City of Manzanita is heavily considering is the historical building known as Underhill Plaza at the corner of Division Street and Manzanita Avenue. Currently there are businesses residing within the Plaza and many aren’t sure what the future holds for their commercial locations.

“I think its good for the city to consider moving City Hall,” said Hillary Howell with Howell’s Floor Coverings. “I think its really helpful in the long run for the city and the community.”

According to Howell they will likely have to find a new commercial location and are currently looking for options that cater to their needs for production and storage space, but she remains upbeat in her feelings regarding the city’s necessity to move locations. She and her husband started the business in 1976 and have kept their family run operation in business since, utilizing the space at Underhill Plaza has been crucial for their business.

In addition to Howell’s Floor Covering there is also North Coast Watchmen Services and the Osborne Fine Arts Studio. If the city proceeds with purchasing the property it is assumed those businesses will be required to vacate, though some aren’t quite certain that will be necessary.

“Currently the plan right now is to have the businesses stay as we move forward,” said Manzanita City Manager Jerry Taylor. “The council wants to move quickly on this, and rightfully so, but we do need to purchase a new building soon.”

According to Taylor the process to do so has already begun though Taylor anticipates a weekend workshop where they will form an advisory group to assist with the process, help with a number of procedural options and they will help with the Plaza itself. The next step after that is to hire an architect to assist in structural redesigning, shoring up and help modernize the building.

“There are already a number of other interested buyers for Underhill Plaza which obviously drives the sale price up,” said Mayor Scott. “We have the money set aside for this, and we intend to use the funds generated from selling the current building to go into the new one in order to offset costs.”

Mayor Scott also suggest that this was something he’s really been wanting to do and considers it a central part of his mayoral term.

If the City of Manzanita moves forward with the purchase then it is hoped the new building can house other civil departments like city administration, police, a location to put emergency supplies and even the potential for a park to be installed in the grounds area of the facility.

“It seems nearly every idea has been brought to the table about what we can do with this building,” City Manager Taylor said. “Ultimately we don’t yet know the timeframe of the project, we are just about to sign a purchase agreement with the Underhills which will give us a 60 day period to find any flaws in the property before we finalize the purchase.”

Building with history
What is now Underhill Plaza was originally something much different than a commercial location, the building was once known as the Pine Grove Elementary School and had two main grades with approximately ten kids per grade.

“It was the best school I ever went to,” said Diane Gibson of Diane Gibson, CPA financial services in Manzanita. “One thing I will always remember is that the main third and fourth grade teacher, who was also the school’s principal, would always make sure every student had lunch, no matter what.”

Pine Grove Elementary School ceased scholastic operation when the consolidation of the schools occurred in 1960 when students moved to the larger school facility in Nehalem.