Bass picked to develop old Sacred Heart School


The former Sacred Heart School, on Sherman Street. (photo/Chris Busby)
The former Sacred Heart School, on Sherman Street. (photo/Chris Busby)

Bass picked to develop old Sacred Heart School 
Eight “artist condos” envisioned in Parkside 

By Chris Busby

On Oct. 11, developer Peter Bass’ Random Orbit Inc. got a unanimous nod from the Portland City Council’s three-member Housing Committee to turn the former Sacred Heart School in Parkside into eight “artist condominiums.” The full council will consider the deal in November.

Bass, whose proposal was chosen over those of two other development teams, has built “artist condos” in Portland before: East Bayside Studios, eight loft-style artist condos on Anderson Street, in 2002. 

The projected price of the Sacred Heart condos is between $125,000 and $140,000. Bass proposes to keep the units’ price affordable through deed restrictions that limit their sale to those with income 80-percent or less than the average homebuyer’s. In exchange, buyers would have to accept a financial arrangement that limits the amount of equity their condo accrues over the years. Language defining who qualifies as an “artist” will also be codified in condo documents. 

The eight condos would be about 700 square-feet in size, and six of them would include an additional 300 square-feet of studio space in the basement. Bass also plans a common library, laundry, and sculpture garden. 

Both of the other two teams that responded to the city’s request for proposals saw room for 10 units in the school’s two floors of classrooms and basement. But both projected slightly higher per-unit sales prices, and one initially offered the city $70,000 for the building, less than half Random Orbit’s proposed $150,000 payment.

After the committee vote, neither group had yet decided whether to keep advocating for their plan before the entire council next month. 

Full City Projects, a new development group led by Jacques Santucci and Dallas Rolnick, offered the initial $70,000 bid, though subsequently told the committee it was willing to consider a higher payment. Full City projected its 10 units would sell for $145,000 each. But Full City also envisioned the prospect of selling the building to a cooperative corporation of artist/residents “identified and screened” by an Artist Advisory Board the developers would convene. 

The other bidder is the People’s Regional Opportunity Program (PROP), a non-profit agency with housing development experience. PROP’s proposal entailed the most renovation work of any of the three, including a new heating system that would allow for individual control of each condo’s temperature. They projected the 10 units would sell for $160,000 each. 

Committee members Jim Cloutier, Nick Mavodones, and Karen Geraghty, the chair, cited Random Orbit’s relatively low projected price, high upfront payment, and previous development experience in reaching their recommendation. 

The former Catholic school was last used several years ago by Portland’s public school district for multilingual programs and administration. Proceeds from its sale may be earmarked for future school construction projects.

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