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Empty Wapato attracts big ideas, few suitors

by: TRIBUNE FILE PHOTO - The unused $58.4 million Wapato Jail could be used for film and TV production, or it could be used as holding cells for world leaders arrested by a shadowy 'justice agency,' according to seven proposals received by Multnomah County for the facility. The county will look at the proposals and decide the 155,000-square-foot facility's fate.A handful of potential suitors want to turn Multnomah County’s empty $58.4 million Wapato Jail into a secure community college campus for students in residential treatment programs, a possible film and television production facility for a South Carolina company known for its real estate reality shows, and a potential holding cell for “world government” leaders taken into custody by a shadowy nongovernmental group of vigilantes.

The county’s 155,000-square-foot jail on 18 acres on North Bybee Lake Court has been empty since it was constructed 10 years ago. In early May, county officials sought proposals for use of the site, opening a request for information process that doesn’t bind the county to any single plan, but gives officials an idea of who would bid for the facility.

In early June, seven proposals were sent to the county, three of which were serious. The county will evaluate the proposals for future action.

Proposals (the serious ones) submitted include:

• A plan by Charles Ong of Host Campus to create a “secure community college campus” with classes for people in a “safely controlled group-living situation.”

• A proposal by the Oregon Media Production Assocation to keep the facility open for use by film, video and media production companies that film television programs and movies in the state. The association says that in the past 11 years, the state has recruited dozens of projects to the region, bringing in about $120 million in revenue last year.

In the past six years, Wapato has been used to film the “Leverage” television series, scenes from NBC’s series “Grimm,” local commercials, and scenes from IFC’s “Portlandia.”

• Richard C. Davis of Trademark Properties in Charleston, S.C., proposed spending $2 million to use the facility for production of a new television series. Davis declined to elaborate on the series, saying, “I am happy to divulge further details if we are chosen as the successful bidder.”

Davis is the creator of A&E’s "Flip This House" real estate reality show.

• Round-op Alpha S.I.N.G.J.A. is proposing to use the facility as holding cells for world leaders its teams would arrest and bring to Portland. The group bills itself as a nongovernmental “justice agency” that wants to arrest more than 750 government leaders around the globe for crimes such as looting of public wealth, oppressing of populations, attacking rights to good health and education, killing in the name of corporate profits, and the decay of the public’s health.

According to its proposal, Round-op Alpha would take world leaders into custody, bring them to Wapato and then charge them $5 million through a “convicts compensation fund.” The project could bring in funds by turning the facility into a museum and offering guided tours for visitors.

Round-op Alpha’s proposal includes application for Oregon income tax credits for its investment, but promises to have 312 employees and an annual operating budget of $75 million.