The soon-to-be owner of the R.E. Bennett and Cascade elementary buildings says his team is planning to convert the pair of structures into residential, “family-oriented” apartment units that should integrate well into the existing neighborhood, which is located just south of downtown Chehalis.
Michael McCowan, owner of Chehalis-based Market Boulevard LLC, says he and his business partner plan on purchasing the buildings for $1.875 million, roughly 75% of the appraised value, from the Chehalis School District. A purchasing sale agreement has been signed with the school district, he said.
A spokesperson with the Chehalis School District was not immediately able to answer questions, but confirmed McCowan as the buyer.
This development might serve as a positive development in the Twin Cities’ slim and contracting housing market.
Though he wasn’t able to give too many details on the project, including the number of units they’re hoping to construct, McCowan said this is expected to be his company’s largest project by far. Most recently, Market Boulevard LLC has done historical building work on the Centralia-Chehalis Elks Lodge building and the Brunswig Building at 383 NW Chehalis Ave., he said.
“All of those projects are pretty significant projects, but this would be the largest project for us in the area and the one we’re thrilled to work on and work with other community members to make happen,” McCowan said.
The two schools share a large, 5-acre campus located along South Market Boulevard. They were made obsolete for the school district’s purposes after the construction of the district’s two newest schools, James W. Lintott and Orin C. Smith elementaries.
The new owners are looking to utilize the courtyard between the two schools potentially as a park, McCowan said. The facilities will include studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, and may include amenities such as a gym and social area.
More details are expected in the coming weeks.
McCowan, who has been considering the purchase with his unnamed partner for more than two years, said the goal is to develop a complex that integrates seamlessly into the larger neighborhood, while at the same time preserving the greater historical importance of the facilities.
The goal of the project, he said, is to do “as much good for the local community as they can.”
Cascade was built in 1922 and R.E. Bennett opened in 1928, according to the district’s website. Both were decommissioned in 2018. A third school, Olympic Elementary, which was built in 1960, was also decommissioned as an elementary school that year. It’s currently being used as office space for groups including the Lewis Conservation District and the Chehalis Foundation.
Discussions of a single, interested buyer have been floating around the school board and at the school district since at least May, though the district has been looking to sell the buildings since passing the bond that funded the new facilities.
R.E. Bennett, located at 233 S. Market Blvd., is more than 32,000 square feet in size and Cascade is 10,700 square feet, according to Lewis County Geodata. Both schools are currently zoned for essential public facilities, according to City of Chehalis zoning maps, and are surrounded by medium-density, single-family housing and commercial.