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New Muckle Building owner doesnt fear historic development

After 'a good trade' Carl Coffman looks at the future of his new building
by: Darryl Swan SOLD — The historic Muckle Building in Olde Towne St. Helens recently sold after several years of dormancy to Carl Coffman of Oregon City. Coffman has an impressive reputation for renovating historic buildings in Portland and, most recently, in Medford.

After years of sitting idle, the historic Muckle Building, once a bright spot for redevelopment in the Olde Towne St. Helens neighborhood, has a new owner.

Tater Rental LLC, an Oregon City real estate firm owned by Carl Coffman, swapped vacant land near Roseburg for the Muckle Building at 31 Cowlitz St., an exchange valued at $251,207.

'It was a good trade for me,' he said, though he admits he wouldn't have acquired the Muckle Building if he had to pay cash for it. Still, it appealed to him.

'I think it's a beautiful building,' he said. 'I was attracted to it when I first saw it.'

Coffman said he has no immediate renovation or construction plans for the Muckle Building, which is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

'I have no idea what I'm going to do with it,' Coffman said in an interview with The Spotlight. He said he anticipates reworking the roof of the 1909 building to halt leaks and then tackling seismic upgrades in a year or so.

If he chooses to renovate, this wouldn't be the first time Coffman has tackled a historic building.

Though Tater Rental appears on the Columbia County sale document for the three-story, 5,500-square foot building, Coffman is vested in multiple real estate and excavation ventures. He is the president of Norway Development that owns Esquire Apartments on Park Avenue in downtown Portland, a 103-year-old building more popularly known for its housing of the Brasserie Montmartre restaurant.

And though he sold off 75 percent of his ownership in Coffman Excavation, the firm contracted to manage excavation of the Intel expansion in Hillsboro, he remains in place as the limited liability corporation's business developer.

In 2010 the Daily Journal of Commerce honored him as the Portland publication's newsmaker of the year, and most recently Coffman has been the subject of several regional news articles for his ambitious renovation of the 1911 Sparta Building in Medford.

After completion of the Brasserie Montmartre building, improvements for which cost around $6 million, Coffman said he had lost his fear of old buildings.

'When I got that done, I felt I knew enough so that old buildings didn't scare me,' he said.

Soon after taking ownership of the building, Coffman said he walked around Olde Towne St. Helens to ask people he met on the street what they would do with the building if it were theirs.

Coffman said he received several varied responses - ranging from a hotel to an event center - from the people he met in Olde Towne.

The most recent wave of construction on the Muckle Building started in the early 2000s and halted in the later part of the decade, in part due to the collapse of the real-estate market. The building had drawn several investors and was slated to house retail outlets on the ground floor and condominiums upstairs. Its original opening timeline was 2007, though ownership of it ultimately reverted to the bank.

'I'm not completely convinced that condominiums are the best use of it,' Coffman said.