Councilor Thibodeau Looks to Remove Reiche Brackett Street Ramp
The Brackett Street ramp leading to the second-floor community room at Reiche is set to be torn down. District 2 City Councilor Spencer Thibodeau (West End, Parkside) said the demolition should occur during the schools’ spring break.
A Little History
The Howard C. Reiche Community School is a K-5 elementary school in the West End bordered by Brackett, Clark, Spring and Pine Streets. It was built in the 1970s at a time of citywide urban renewal. Buildings in a four-block area were demolished to make room for the school. It was built with an open floor plan.
A branch library of the Portland Public Library was located at Reiche until 2010, when the library branch was closed for budget reasons. The Reiche Book Nook, a volunteer lending library, now occupies a second-floor community room. Also, a community health clinic, a community swimming pool, a community gym with locker rooms, and other community center facilities are located here.
One of the quintessential design elements of the school were two outside ramps that added a stark concrete highlight (or lowlight) to the building’s facade. The Clark Street ramp began to degrade last winter, and it was closed to the public in February 2016. The City removed the ramp last Spring, and over the summer and fall the new Clark Street entrance was constructed. The construction was funded through the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), money set aside every year to improve City facilities.
The new entrance includes an elevator, level floors and other enhancements that make more of the school’s community areas ADA compliant. Also, the new entrance separates public and student entrances.
Meanwhile, the Brackett Street ramp remains. But not for long, if Councilor Thibodeau can make it happen. He is certain that the City will earmark funds to remove the Brackett Street ramp this Spring, and create a better entrance to tie-in with the new Clark Street entrance.
The School Bond
The removal of the ramp is not part of the $70 million school bond that is expected to go before voters. That bond includes funding for improvements at Reiche, but the ramp project is independent of the bond.
In fact, Councilor Spencer Thibodeau says he is taking a “two-road approach” to Reiche. He does not want to wait for the bond to make needed improvements. He says the ramp will be replaced regardless of the bond’s outcome. His plan is to implement the Brackett Street ramp project in a way that will compliment any future renovations. He stresses that no one wants to go back and redo any construction that happens now, if future renovations do occur.
The Councilor supports the school bond. He notes that many in the neighborhood have “legitimate” concerns. And while he agrees that there is an affordability issue in Portland, his solution is to follow the advice of City Manager Jon Jennings and balance “wants versus needs.”
Ultimately, the ramp removal has yet to be funded, but Councilor Thibodeau believes that he has the City Manager’s support. The City Manager writes the budget. Thibodeau says he and Jennings will likely create the project budget from a “mix bag” of sources that would likely include the CIP fund.