Venerable’s President Craig Kelly was named a DJC Newsmaker for 2013. Here is the article they ran, highlighting the efforts of Venerable and PacTrust in making the Washington High School project a reality:
As renovation of Washington High School continues, the Southeast Portland historic landmark is sharing plenty of surprises.
“Always in historic renovations there are surprises,” said Craig Kelly, president of Venerable Properties. “Fortunately, most of these surprises have been positive. The fun part is finding little nuggets of treasure as we proceed.”
Washington High School, which replaced a school that burned in 1922, was built entirely of concrete and red brick. When it was completed in 1924, it featured a large auditorium at its center, wide corridors and light-filled stairwells.
The building, vacant since the 1980s, drew the attention of Venerable Properties, which specializes in historic renovations and adaptive reuse. Founder Art DeMuro and Kelly began planning for its revitalization in 2009. First, though, they had to buy the property from Portland Public Schools and obtain approvals to transform the historic school into a mix of office, retail and community space.
“The bureaucratic process of the transaction was very lengthy and sometimes difficult in the time it took to proceed,” Kelly said. “We had a lot of hoops to jump through for the city and the Historic Landmarks Commission. We were successful, but it took a lot of time, money and resources.”
When DeMuro died in 2012, Kelly was determined to carry the project forward. He gained the support and financial backing of PacTrust and, last October, finalized the purchase agreement with Portland Public Schools.
“I’ve always known the project was going to be successful; I just needed someone like Art who had the confidence in me and could see the forest through the trees,” Kelly said. “I was very fortunate to find a great partner in PacTrust to step in where I needed the help and kind of fill that void that Art left. For that, I’m very grateful.”
This November, the building will offer 20,000 square feet of retail space and 55,000 square feet of office space. The renovation also includes new heating and cooling, plumbing and electrical systems, as well as a new freight elevator. The building will be fully ADA accessible.
The historic auditorium is designated for community use, most likely for performances and corporate events. In addition, the 2,600-square-foot roof deck – with views of downtown Portland – will be available for tenant use and event rentals.
“It’s a fun project and we’re thrilled that we’re bringing this 90-plus-year-old community asset back to life,” Kelly said.