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Developer to OC: I'm outta here
Following an 'impasse' declared by North End property owner Scott Parker, developer Fred Bruning is pulling out of a $20-million preliminary offer on the bankrupt Blue Heron site, along with the more than $17 million that the city could have contributed in urban renewal funds to the Rossman Landfill site on the north side of downtown Oregon City.
Other developers may soon rush in to fill the hole left by large shopping center development company CenterCal's lack of a contract for the purchase of the Rossman and Blue Heron properties. Bruning claims that obtaining the contract would have been 'foolhardy' without assurance that the deal would move forward.
'We wouldn't be doing anything further in the (Oregon City) area under the current political situation,' Bruning said.
As reported in the Oregon City News on April 13, the property sale was one of the many potential barriers to the deal. Other points of contention included the project's level of LEED green certification, its pedestrian connections and its inclusion of historic references.
Urban renewal critics apparently haven't impeded interest in Rossman real estate at the intersection of two major highways and walking distance from downtown Oregon City. Mike Duyn, a broker with the Portland-based Macadam Forbes commercial real estate firm, related his experience in an email to the city.
'I have several wealthy and experienced local developers with interest possibly in taking over the Rivers project. They all want to know more,' Duyn wrote.
OC City Manager David Frasher responded by directing Tony Konkol, the city's community development director, to call Duyn and guide the broker through the maps and other project information available on the city's website and in other publicly accessible files. But Frasher was hesitant to direct more resources to other developers who don't have a signed agreement with Parker on the purchase price of Rossman.
'After this experience with Mr. Bruning, I do not want our staff spending a lot of time on these things unless the broker works directly with the property owner,' Frasher wrote.
Duyn did not return calls seeking further comment.
'We have been in contact with other developers/retailers who have shown a strong interest and plan on bringing potential projects before both commissions in the near future. Those projects most likely won't be as extensive as CenterCal's,' Parker wrote in another letter to the city.
Bruning claimed that that his hesitancy to sign a contract didn't come from any disagreement about the purchase price (estimated in the $12-million range), but rather because of a 'Catch 22' he experienced.
'We were no longer under contract with Scott because we didn't want any more option expense, but the city came back to us and said that they needed a contract before they were going to move forward on any of the other issues,' Bruning said. 'Price is always an issue, and one of the reasons we needed urban renewal was the price of the land. But the usual political gamesmanship was continuing in Oregon City, and Scott has been really patient, and he just reached the end of his patience.'
Urban Renewal Commissioner Paul Edgar argued that Oregon City's demand for a contract was more than reasonable. If Bruning had continued to work with the city, Edgar argued, CenterCal would probably have found a receptive audience, even among commissioners critical of urban renewal.
'We have this potential to make things happen from Blue Heron to Main Street to Rossman Landfill,' Edgar said. 'It's not if it's going to happen; it's when it's going to happen.'
'There was nothing perfect about this storm, but the one thing we couldn't have overcome was the opposition on the council,' Bruning said. 'I wish Scott's family well and the city well, and I think they still have a good chance of coming up with a viable plan.'
Edgar said he saw himself as one of the URC's swing votes.
'My cup is proverbially half-full, so show me a good plan, and I'll approve it,' he said.