Former mill workers ordered benefits at Tuesday bankruptcy hearing after CenterCal expresses interest in site

As a federal judge ordered on Tuesday that Blue Heron workers be paid severance benefits 'as soon as possible,' he revealed that there was a 'stalking horse' buyer for the former mill site.

The mysterious potential buyer turned out to be none other than CenterCal, developer of a controversial landfill-topping shopping mall known as The Rivers proposed for the other end of downtown Oregon City.

CenterCal President Fred Bruning acknowledged that the company was interested in the waterfront property for a mixed-use development intended to be complementary, rather than in lieu of The Rivers.

'We think it's quite an interesting property of a type that doesn't come along very often, so we felt it was important to show some interest,' Bruning said.

Presiding over a courtroom packed with dozens of former mill workers, U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Randall L. Dunn compared the $20 million CenterCal was tentatively prepared to pay for the property with the $14 million owed to Blue Heron creditors and concluded that the bankrupt company had potential to use its assets to prevent insolvency.

'The employees ought to be paid in accordance to the federal statute,' Dunn said. 'They're out there applying for unemployment; they need the funds.'

Read next Wednesday's print edition for more on Blue Heron.

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