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Port of Portland buys former Alcoa site

A possible deal with FedEx moves forward

The Port of Portland has officially acquired the former Reynolds Metal/Alcoa site in Troutdale, clearing another obstacle for a proposed relocation of a Federal Express ground distribution center.

The port closed the $17.25 million property purchase on Thursday, Dec. 20. Using money from its general fund, the consummated deal comes three years after negotiations began. The interim period allowed Alcoa to demolish old equipment and fulfill environmental requirements for a Superfund cleanup site.

The city of Troutdale is reviewing the port's application for an industrial subdivision. FedEx Ground Package System Inc. has expressed interest in building a new hub. Its distribution center is currently located on Swan Island in North Portland. That deal is still in negotiations, but the port sees a number of possibilities for the 700-acre site between the Columbia River, the Sandy River and Interstate 84.

'The Port of Portland saw the potential to bring the site back to productive use,' said Josh Thomas, port media relations manager. 'It's an ideal location for a variety of modes of transport.'

Before the deal was finalized, the port wanted to be free from liability issues on the industrialized 700-acre site. The property was contaminated from decades of aluminum smelting at the Reynolds Metals plant. Built in 1941, the facility was acquired by Alcoa in the late 1990s.

The port used a consent decree filed with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to release it from liability related to prior contamination. Consequently, the port is restricted to using the site for industrial purposes only. Ground water cannot be used for drinking and some parts of the property are off limits for development.

'The consent judgment was necessary to close the deal,' Thomas said. 'It specifies the conditions the port has to meet moving forward. The liability issue had to be ironed out. It took a lot of time and effort to work through those issues.'

Port and Troutdale officials have worked for years with the state and Multnomah County to return the site to productivity - and eventually, the tax rolls. On Sept. 28, the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department approved an enterprise zone designation for the site. This allows a company to operate with a three-year abatement of property taxes.

Most of the property lies within Troutdale, but the tax-abatement zone extends to adjacent land in Fairview. The two cities collaborated on the enterprise-zone application to help attract viable employers to the area.

Regardless of FedEx's ultimate plans, the port and Troutdale are committed to creating a viable industrial park on the property. With the bulk of Superfund environmental abatement issues addressed, streets, sidewalks and utility connections can be prepared to attract tenants.

Port commissioners will select a contractor to develop the park, which will include a recreational trail along the Columbia River levee.

'It's been an idle brownfield awaiting someone with the ability to stick it out for the long haul,' Thomas said. 'This has been worth the time and effort put into it. We're pleased to be where we are right now, having closed on the deal. This is a great way to end the year.'