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Posted on: June 1, 2018

Cheney High School/School House Lofts Wins Preservation Award

OLYMPIA - Dr. Allyson Brooks, State Historic Preservation Officer (SHPO) announced the 2018 award winners for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation at an award ceremony in Olympia held on May 15, 2018.  Each year the SHPO, who also serves as the Director of the Washington State Department of Archaeology & Historic Preservation (DAHP), recognizes persons, organizations, and projects that achieved distinction in the field of historic preservation in the following award categories:  Barn Rehabilitation, Career Achievement, Cemetery Preservation, Education, Media, Planning, Rehabilitation, Special Achievement, and Stewardship.  

The Cheney High School/School House Lofts project is the recipient of the SHPO's Sivinski Award for Outstanding Achievement in Historic Rehabilitation.  Completed in 1931 and now listed in the National Register of Historic Places, Cheney's iconic High School is an impressive 3-story brick structure displaying elements of the Collegiate Gothic style.  After serving as Cheney's High School, then Junior High, and finally, as the School District's Administration Building, the building was sold in 2016.

Seattle developer Eastmark Capital Group purchased the building and invested over $6 million to rehabilitate the old school into 36 apartments appealing to residents attending nearby Eastern Washington University.  Eastmark conceived a project which would accentuate the historic elements of the building, retaining the high school feel, and retaining an unusual amount of the original interior.   The developer adhered closely to the National Park Service guidelines for historic preservation qualifying for federal historic tax credits.  The project also qualified for the Washington State special tax assessment program to earn a 10-year reduction in property taxes.

Wide hallways with 13' ceilings and terrazzo floors are still lined by metal lockers with combination padlocks.  Half the original gymnasium remains intact, converted to a game room.  Half the theater became a study lounge.  To capitalize on the 12+ foot ceilings, loft sleeping areas were constructed with study nooks overtop of closets and bathrooms.  Adding clerestory windows above doors allows natural light to flow throughout interior spaces.   In sharp contrast to contemporary cookie-cutter apartment buildings, School House Lofts boast interesting nooks, inspiring living spaces and remarkable common areas, with no two units alike.  

The Cheney Historic Preservation Commission, in nominating the School House Lofts for this award, concluded that ambitions to renew the building have been wildly successful and cemented School House Lofts as a residential and activity hub for EWU students, providing bright and sophisticated living spaces within this cherished historic landmark.

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