Providence Academy Smokestack Stabilization Update

The Trust had until June 29, 2022, to consider feasible alternatives to demolition offered by the community. As of June 29, 2022, we are still significantly below the $3-$3.5 million needed for stabilization and stewardship. To date, The Trust has received nine pledges totaling $3,900 and no suggestions of feasible alternatives to demolition.

 

Dear Friends,

In the past ten years, our Academy donor community has come together to purchase and begin the extensive preservation of one of the most iconic, historic properties on the west coast, the Providence Academy.

Founded and designed by Mother Joseph – visionary, humanitarian, architect – the historic Providence Academy is a cornerstone of our community’s rich cultural heritage and strength of spirit.

To date, over $16.5 million has been invested in the purchase, maintenance, and rehabilitation of the Academy. Rehabilitation projects are overseen by teams of architects, engineers, craftspeople, preservation consultants, and historians with extensive experience with historic structures.

We know from speaking with our Academy donor community donors over the years that the focus of their generosity is to save the Academy building. There is now a question about the Academy’s smokestack. The Trust knew when the property was purchased in 2015 that the smokestack was very deteriorated and unsafe. Despite the obvious challenges, The Trust vigorously sought ways to save it and researched smokestacks that have been stabilized. While every situation is different, the Trust looked at various stacks that have, for example, cabling and collar systems to keep them standing, and also obtained some cost estimates for those. However, those methods, along with being visually intrusive, do not provide the full seismic stabilization required by both the City of Vancouver and the Trust for safety reasons.

After extensive testing, consideration of different seismic stabilization methods and an examination of the economics of stabilization, the Trust arrived at the conclusion that there was no economically feasible way to stabilize it, and entered the City of Vancouver review process for demolition. The smokestack has been declared an unfit building, and The Trust is required to stabilize or demolish it. The current estimated cost for seismic stabilization and related costs is $3-3.5 million. This amount is based on a contractor’s estimate from October of 2020 which has been escalated to 2022 costs via a formula from the same contractor. This figure also includes estimated costs for protecting the smokestack during demolition of the attached structures and until rehabilitation could take place, and a projection of maintenance costs for several years.

The Clark County Historic Preservation Commission voted in July, 2021 to allow demolition of the smokestack but stipulated that the Trust spend 90 days upon issuance of the demolition permit fundraising for stabilization. The demolition permit has now been issued, so The Trust is starting the final phase.

The Trust had until June 29, 2022, to seek pledges of support toward the $3-3.5 million needed for a full seismic upgrade to stabilize the smokestack. Unless the full amount required for stabilization was pledged, the smokestack would be removed.

Although the smokestack post-dates the early Academy construction era overseen by Mother Joseph, it has its own functional history as part of the site, having been part of the boiler plant built in 1910, 37 years after the Academy opened and eight years after Mother Joseph’s death. The Trust understands the historical and symbolic value of the smokestack in the community and as part of the Academy property. We are asking the community again if there is adequate financial support for stabilization.

Stabilizing the Smokestack
A full seismic upgrade is absolutely essential for public safety. The Trust has consulted with a structural testing company and engineers and conducted hazardous materials testing to determine the extent of the problems with the smokestack and how to make it safer. Briefly, this requires: creating a larger base, adding an internal steel and concrete core, and performing extensive external brick and mortar repair.

Stabilizing the smokestack is intended to help prevent loss of life or severe injury in the event of an earthquake. It will not absolutely prevent the smokestack from collapsing during an earthquake or slow the normal erosion process of the bricks and mortar over time.

Mitigating the Loss
The Historic Trust is committed to mitigating the loss of the smokestack by taking large-scale photographs, researching and writing an in-depth history of the site, giving historic building materials to the Sisters of Providence for their collections, re-using building materials on-site, continuing to create education programs and exhibits to interpret the inspiring history of the Sisters of Providence for residents and visitors, and more.

 

Questions

If you have additional questions, please email communications@thehistorictrust.org.

Thank you for your ongoing support of The Historic Trust and Providence Academy.