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Rite Aid reconsiders property


   After its predecessor owned and then sold the former site of Ron McDonald Chevrolet, the Rite Aid company is considering reacquiring the property.
   The 1.36-acre property, located just north of B Street, between Fourth and Fifth streets, is currently owned by the Opportunity Foundation of Central Oregon, which is headquartered in Redmond.
   The Rite Aid Corp. has made an offer, which was accepted by OFCO, according to seller agent Mike Ahern, and is in the "due diligence" phase. During due diligence, which could last anywhere from a few months up to a year, a potential purchaser evaluates the property it hopes to acquire, but may back out of the sale.
   Nevertheless, Darrel Wilson, executive director of OFCO, is optimistic about the sale. "It's a great deal for Madras," he said. "It's a signature corner -- a one of a kind location -- given the development that B Street feeds to the east: the college, the pool, all the residential development, the prison. It's going to be a wonderful deal."
   The Opportunity Foundation purchased the property in October of 2001 from Thrifty PayLess Inc. (which was acquired by Rite Aid), for $340,000. Thrifty purchased the property in February of 1999 for $550,000.
   From the early 1900s, the property was the site of the Conroy family's Main Street Garage. The final lessee of the property was Ron McDonald Chevrolet, which moved to a new location in August of 1999, after Rite Aid bought out the remainder of its lease.
   When the Opportunity Center purchased the property, it began an environmental cleanup, which included decommissioning two underground oil storage tanks, two underground heating oil tanks, and five hydraulic lifts. The foundation removed fuel islands, 675 tons of petroleum-contaminated soil, and a 100-foot deep waste disposal well, in addition to abating an asbestos problem before razing the old building.
   "We removed a huge liability that they were facing," said Wilson, who figures that OFCO is "well into the six figures in the hole in this thing" after the purchase, demolition, cleanup, and purchase of a new location.
   The Opportunity Foundation, which provides training and work experience for area residents with developmental and other disabilities, moved its Opportunities Galore store to the remodeled Les Schwab Tire Center building on South Highway 97 in October of 2006.
   "We really wanted somebody to come in that would do a development that would complement and inspire development, and that's Rite Aid," said Wilson.
   Rite Aid's plans include a quality brick structure, Wilson pointed out. "There are a lot of things, from a shopping point of view, that Madras needs and wants, and this will take care of it," he said.
   Jim Beamer, who represented Rite Aid both times it purchased the property, said that there are more restrictions on the property this time around.
   "They like the location, but they don't like the restrictions that have been put on it," he said, referring to new city zoning.
   "We're just investigating the possibilities of developing the property," he said. "At this point, the architect and the design team are looking at the site to determine what can be done with it."
   Chuck McGraw, Madras Community Development Department director, said he hasn't yet spoken with the anyone from the Rite Aid Corp., but would work with the company to help situate the business.
   Last June, the city established new city zones, including a C-2 (downtown commercial) zone, which excludes vehicle-oriented businesses, such as fast-food restaurants and gas stations. Some drive-up windows have been allowed on businesses in the downtown core area that are primarily designed for foot traffic.
   The main concern on the lot is the fact that it sits partially in an area designated by the Federal Emergency Management agency as a floodway, and partially in a flood plain.
   A floodway is the channel where floodwater flows, while the flood plain is the broader, relatively flat area adjacent to the floodway that may also experience flooding.
   "They'd have to locate it out of the floodway, and in the flood plain, and one foot above the flood level," McGraw explained, adding that parking lots are allowed in both zones.