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Keizer’s center

The Keizer Heritage Foundation’s vision of the future of the Keizer Heritage Center will get attention from the city council in June as it ponders the soon-too expire lease.

The Foundation owns and operates the Center, which started its life as the original Keizer Elementary School on the corner of River and Chemawa Roads (thus Schoolhouse Square Shopping Center).  The city of Keizer owns the land under the building which it leases to the Foundation for a dollar year.

The city was presented a task force report from the Foundation in late December regarding Heritage Center’s next 20 years.   Next month the city council will hold a work session to discuss the task force vision with the foundation board.

The biggest issue at hand is space.  Currently the Heritage Center houses the Chamber of Commerce, the Keizer Art Association and Enid Joy Mount Gallery, the Keizer Heritage Museum, the Keizer Community Library and Keizer Young Life.  The foundation owns and operates the museum.

The library and its supporters want to see it expanded from the approximately 650 square feet it now occupies.  The museum needs more space; it is a cramped space with narrow aisles and there is not enough space to display all of the artifacts.

Presently the foundation pays for the operation and maintenance of the Center through tenant rentals and revenue from renting the community room on the second floor for weddings and other events. Some say, and Mayor Lore Christopher agrees, that the library should be located in Keizer’s only public historic building.  To make that work the library, in some views, would have to expand on the ground floor since the second floor can’t handle the weight of the books.  That would mean relocating the museum to the second floor in the space now occupied by the conference room.

Those issues will undoubtly come into play as the council and the foundation board hash out new lease terms.

Without the revenue from conference room rentals the foundation would not have the income to maintain and operate the building.  That’s when the city would probably have to step in and take over those financial responsibilites. However, the city is not in a fiscal position to assure the maintenance of a building that’s almost 100 years old.

The space in the Heritage Center is finite.  To expand and keep the library and the museum in the building, something will have to vacate.  And that’ll be the crux of the discussion.