The Portland City Council gave initial approval Monday night for a Portland-based developer to give new life to an old school in the Riverton neighborhood.

Developers Collaborative plans to renovate the former Thomas B. Reed School so it can be used as a preschool for children with special needs. The existing two-story brick structure and community open space at 19 Libby Ave. would be preserved.

Children’s Odyssey, which serves children with mobility challenges, would run the programming. Director Susan McCormick said the school would have space for infants and toddlers as well as two pre-kindergarten classrooms. It would also offer before- and after-school care for some local students.

The city has been studying re-use options since 2014. Its first request for proposals to redevelop the school produced two responses, both of which were for about 45 units of senior housing, but that type of density prompted neighborhood opposition.

After the neighborhood expressed concern about the potential effects of so many units, the city reissued its request, emphasizing the need for community input before the sale of the property and the redevelopment plan could be finalized.

Nearly a dozen residents showed support for the proposal Monday night.


“The neighborhood is organized, ready and supportive of this project,” Lexington Avenue resident Elise Scala said. “We’d like to move ahead.”

Although one resident wanted the school converted to housing, Kevin Bunker of Developers Collaborative said that housing was only “marginally feasible” at the densities previously proposed. Any reduction in units, as requested by neighbors, would make housing unfeasible.

Bunker said he proposed an education use to give the community a clear choice and he’s pleasantly surprised with the results.

“I’m surprised that it has struck a chord the way it has,” he said. “It’s kind of nice.”

Developers Collaborative will now work with local residents to draft a final proposal. After that, City Manager Jon Jennings will negotiate a sales agreement, which will still need council approval.

The nearly 34,000-square-foot building, which was built in the 1920s and most recently used as the central kitchen for Portland schools before it was turned over to the city in 2014, sits on 2½ acres.


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