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Developers eye urban renewal site

Troutdale opens proposal process on former sewage treatment site just north of downtown

Based on Web site traffic and a recent meeting, there is already a healthy level of interest in the city of Troutdale's redevelopment plan for the former sewage treatment plant site along the Sandy River and Interstate 84.

No fewer than 25 firms and individuals had accessed the Urban Renewal Agency's online Request of Qualifications document for the 20-acre site since it opened the process to developers Friday, Jan. 16.

An initial step in gauging developers' interest, the agency advertised the RFQ in print publications and sent notices of its availability to at least 40 firms.

'We're off to a running start,' said City Administrator John Anderson. 'And that's good.'

Interested developers have until March 4 to submit Statements of Qualifications to the agency.

'From a scheduling standpoint, the city would like to have a developer on board by the end of the year,' said Rich Faith, community development director.

At a Jan. 9 meeting, city officials delivered a presentation on the $7 million project, which calls for a mix of residential and commercial uses. Anderson, Faith, and Mayor Paul Thalhofer spoke to about 15 developers and individuals interested in the project.

Officials cited the proposed expansion of McMenamins Edgefield across Halsey Street on the former Pig Farm property, a proposed FedEx Ground distribution center and a new Troutdale library as positive developments on the city's horizon. Emphasizing the importance of a pedestrian-friendly development with a residential component, Faith said the site represents a growing trend to revitalize formerly industrial waterfront sites for the public good. A riverfront pathway, a public plaza and green space are also part of the project.

'That's the trend around the nation, to make waterfront areas a public resource to be cherished and provide public benefits instead of sitting as dump sites and junkyards,' he said. 'In many places, that's what they've ended up as.'

The property, which sits on the Sandy River just south of the Columbia River, has gone largely unused since the former sewer plant was relocated in late 2001. The city's Parks and Facilities Department facilities occupy part of the old plant, but those will also be moved before the land is revitalized.

Fresh development would bring multiple benefits to the city and its residents, Faith said.

'It would put a significant portion of the property back onto the tax rolls,' he said. 'And it would provide some productive use of the land instead of sitting there as an eyesore.'

Vehicular access to the property is limited, but the city has an agreement with the Chelsea Group, the owner of the adjacent Columbia Gorge Premium Outlets, to build a direct right-of-way through the complex. The city has until the end of the year to cover the purchase total of $2.15 million, or forfeit the $300,000 it has put forth to secure the deal.

To help compensate for the loss of about 6,400 square feet of retail space, Chelsea will have the option to partner with a developer and purchase some of the city's land.

After the March deadline for Statement of Qualifications, an advisory committee will evaluate the proposals and submit a recommendation of the best candidates to the urban renewal agency. The most qualified will be asked to submit formal proposals on their development plans.

'Once we enter into an agreement, we will need to go through whatever steps are necessary for land-use approval,' Faith said, adding that the site requires no significant environmental mitigation work.

'There's a long way to go.'