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Eugene 4J School District to buy downtown bank for new headquarters

The former Wells Fargo building in downtown Eugene.
Chris Lehman
The former Wells Fargo building in downtown Eugene. The bank has moved to another location a few blocks away and Eugene 4J school district has started the process to purchase it for their new district offices.

The Eugene 4J school board has voted to purchase and remodel a shuttered downtown bank building into their new district offices.

The Wells Fargo building at Broadway and Oak is worth nearly $11 million dollars, according to county records. The district, however, is buying it from an unknown third party for $3 million and plans to spend an additional $10 million on renovations.

4J Superintendent Andy Dey declined to name the current owner of the building. He said moving school administration downtown will free up the current offices on North Monroe to be used as classroom space or potentially as the new home for career and technical programs and GED classes.

“It has the infrastructure and it's centrally located which means that it's easily accessed regardless of what neighborhood folks live in,” Dey told KLCC.

The district said about half of the tax dollars used for the purchase were one-time COVID relief funds that will expire in September.

School Board Chair Maya Rabasa, as well as the majority of other board members, argued that current administrative offices would be better used for school programs or classrooms. She said proposals to use the money on staffing shortages could make the district’s budget unsustainable next year.

“To not take the opportunity to re-designate this space for instructional purposes, I can't sit with that personally," she said. "I recognize all of the immediate needs, but I also recognize one of them is turnover and if we use one time funds for staffing, we are pledging to contribute to turnover."

Board members Jenny Jonak and Rick Hamilton said there are plenty of school facilities in need of repairs now, and the district also needs to find a new space for the Yujin Gakuen Japanese immersion school.

“We have rooms that leak, or have mold, we have rooms that don't have proper electricity,” Jonak said. “We also have the (Yujin Gakuen) community that has begged us for a permanent school in the North region. So to me, this is like splurging on a vacation home when you are still paying off your primary residence.”

Dey said the district is working on a number of projects with money they are still using from the 2018 school bond, and there are a lot of programs that could move into 4J’s current administrative offices.

He anticipates the district will move into its new downtown offices in the next eighteen months to two years.

Rebecca Hansen-White joined the KLCC News Department in November, 2023. Her journalism career has included stops at Spokane Public Radio, The Spokesman-Review, and The Columbia Basin Herald.