Jefferson School

A newly constructed home is visible Tuesday near Jefferson Elementary School in Coquille.

COQUILLE — Change is happening in Coquille around the old Jefferson School.

The property was swapped between the Coquille School District and the City of Coquille in exchange for Fortier Field behind Lincoln Elementary. Since then, the city has put utilities in at the property and had lots subdivided by the city engineer.

“We sold those lots,” said Kevin Urban, public works and planning director for Coquille. “One reason we purchased the property was to get those lots divided and put back on the tax rolls so the city can collect property taxes.”

During the city’s regular meeting on Oct. 7, Interim City Manager Roberta Vanderwall told The World that no decisions have been made on what to do with the old Jefferson School yet. However, she is looking into options for the city, including more higher-end housing.

“We’re taking steps on how we can enhance it,” she said, referencing the lots already sold, where construction is now being done to build a housing subdivision. “That subdivision going in has $300,000 housing, so we’d like to have the area a little more upscale for possibly doctors and nurses. There’s not many places for them to stay.”

In fact, when Vanderwall arrived in Coquille for the interim city manager position, there was such a housing shortage that she had no other choice but to buy a fifth wheel to have a place to stay.

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As for the subdivision going up near the old Jefferson School, Vanderwall said eight homes are being built on part of what was the old school property.

The city has looked at possibly demolishing the building, but Urban explained that the cost to do asbestos abatement was “fairly expensive.”

“I know the building is on the market,” he said. “We’re hoping someone wants to purchase it and repurpose it. There have been a lot of ideas for the building, including making it into an emergency shelter, but no decisions have been made yet on what will happen with it.”

For Vanderwall, she is excited about what it could turn into, especially if it follows behind what has already been done with part of the property.

“The houses there now are gorgeous,” she said. “I’m optimistic. I think we’re going to see a change in Coquille.”

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Reporter Jillian Ward can be reached at 541-269-1222, ext. 235, or by email at jillian.ward@theworldlink.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JE_Wardwriter.