Robert "Jake" Jacob calls it his "hair-brained scheme".
Jacob, owner of Astoria's waterfront Cannery Pier Hotel and Spa thinks the old Astoria Armory building can be put to immediate use as a valuable venue for events of all kinds. He and six others have formed a group determined to execute this vision for the 1940's building and he invites others interested in the idea to get involved.
The Armory, located behind the Heritage Museum on Exchange just off 16th street, has been used over the years for many purposes. Thousands used to flock there to watch high school basketball games, go roller skating, or attend special events. The building even served as a church for some years. Lately the building has been owned by the Columbia River Maritime Museum and used to consolidate the museums's vast collection of artifacts including a large collection of small vintage boats that would have othewise been lost to wind and weather. Recently the Maritime Museum purchased the Astoria Builder Supply buildings with the intention of moving it's collection there making the facility a world class research library and controlled secure storage. The Armory building was to be listed for sale along with the lot used now by the Coast Guard for reserved parking for it's cutter crews docked at 17th street.
That's when the City Of Astoria got involved. The city wishes to retain the parking right where it is but has no interest in owning the Armory. The Maritime Museum wouldn't split the real estate deal so the city went to work on finding a solution. Meanwhile, Jacob and his 'Save The Armory" group had made overtures about making a deal to buy the Armory. At last week's Astoria Development Commission meeting Mayor Van Dusen stated that the city is negotiating an agreement involving a local financial institution, Craft 3 (formerly Shore Bank) that would see the bank immediately purchase the Armory from the city as the city buys the properties from the Maritime Museum for $250,000 in a deal that also includes giving the Maritime Museum city property adjacent to the new Barbey Maritime Center and facilitating the vacation of a street that runs between the former Builder Supply buildings. If that deal is successful then Craft 3 would give Jacob's group four months to present an acceptable business plan for the Armory and finance it's purchase.
The Mayor would not go into further detail but said that Jacob's group would have the first right to purchase and if that fails then there are others that have expressed an interest in buying the building. In any case, the city would not be stuck with the Armory, or attempting to carry a contract for it's sale.
This Friday at noon Jacob's group is holding an open house at the Armory for anyone interested in getting involved in the project. In a live interview on KAST Tuesday morning Jacob said that the group isn't asking for donations of money at this time but is asking residents to consider volunteering time to help clean up the building and get it ready for what comes next if his group is successful in convincing the bank that they have a workable plan. He told KAST's Tom Freel that a previous open house attracted about 100 people and he hopes to see more come on Friday to find out more about the project.
Jacob says everyone has good memories about the Armory and the events that made it an important part of the community.