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Urgency wanted on Troutdale urban renewal district

Developers say barriers still exist as deadlines near


by: CONTRIBUTED PHOTO: EASTWIND DEVELOPMENT - Eastwind Development, owned by the Yoshida Group, has big plans for the former industrial site in Troutdale.  Troutdale Council and the Yoshida Group agreed urgency is of the essence if the city and developers are going to meet approaching deadlines on the city’s urban renewal district.

Voters passed the city’s first and only urban renewal district in 2006. The window closes in 2016.

The urban renewal site, located behind the city’s factory outlet mall west of the Sandy River, encompasses the former sewage treatment plant on 12-acres of city-owned land and an adjacent 8-acres of rundown industrial property owned by Eastwind Development.

Eastwind, a subsidiary of the Yoshida Group, plans to buy the city’s portion of the land and market the entire area for development of a luxury hotel complex, restaurant, spa and recreation area.

However, as made clear by Eastwind project manager, Ron Garzini, at a meeting at City Hall on Tuesday, March 18, there is a lot that needs to be done before developers can move forward with the plan.

To add to the pressure, Craig Ward, Troutdale city manager, said the city must commit to the bond revenue it needs to finance renewal of the site and installation of public infrastructure.

The city has until Dec. 1, 2015, to make that commitment.

“The life and future of the urban renewal area will be decided next year when we decide if we go for the bonds,” Ward said. If the city doesn’t issue bonds, the urban renewal area will likely die on the vine, he said.

For the past three years, Eastwind developers has been working with the city and state agencies to clean up the 20-acre brownfield. Using funding from federal and state grants, the EPA and DEQ have been testing both properties for contaminated soil and groundwater.

At the meeting, Garzini said he wants to bring those environmental studies to a close this year.

Eastwind said it has applied for a brownfield loan to remove the carcass pit in October on its property. The buried animal carcasses were left by a former tannery on the site and require removal or else extensive monitoring.

Ward said DEQ is satisfied with the city’s side and that no contamination on the property warrants further investigation.

The city and Eastwind also hope to strike a deal with the owner of Troutdale’s outlet mall, Simon Property Group, to allow for the creation of an access road to the urban renewal district.

The dicey part is the road would have to go through the heart of the outlet mall, and to do that, a building would need to be demolished. Another potential option for an access road, Ward said, would be to build a bridge over the railroad starting from about where the old city hall stands in downtown, but “bridges are expensive,” he said.

Also on the list, Garzini requested the city complete a purchase agreement with Eastwind on the property it intends to sell.

Ward said that requires the city to do an value assessment on the city’s property and factor in the millions of dollars of infrastructure left from the old wastewater treatment plant, which will be costly to tear down.

In addition, as part of the urban renewal, the city and Eastwind plan to preserve areas along the Sandy River for public access and nature trails, which still needs to be sorted out in terms of safety and feasibility.

Mayor Doug Daoust assured developers the urban renewal area is a high priority for the council and the city would work with Eastwind to remove any barriers.

“We’ve had a high level of concern that the urban renewal area is getting short on time,” Daoust said. “But the meeting tonight with Yoshida Group is confirming that things are moving ahead.”