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Willamette businesses have to go

Several shop owners who must leave Willamette Marketplace before demolition begins are hurriedly deciding their futures

With the recent eviction notices for tenants in the Willamette Marketplace shopping center, business owners are scrambling to find another venue.

But few have a definite plan for the future. They have been left in the dark, some say, due to lack of communication.

'I get a pat on the back, saying 'don't worry about it,' ' said Mark Jorgenson, owner of Postal Annex, 'but in the meantime I get a vacate notice by registered mail. I'm in limbo here.'

Owner Graham Bryce has made concessions to a couple of businesses, tentatively proposing that he would demolish and rebuild only one of the center's buildings while those businesses move temporarily to other unoccupied quarters in the center, bounded by 10th Street and Eighth Avenue.

For example, Jorgenson could choose to move into the two-story office building at the southwest corner of the center, previously occupied by Trans Western Publishing (telephone directory).

Riverside Cleaners Owner Roy Berg, who has been in the center since 1992, could choose to move to space in a building formerly occupied by a family dentist.

Both business owners admit the option to move wouldn't be ideal, but the alternatives are to find another location, which hasn't yet materialized, or go out of business.

Jorgenson said he has lots of motivation to keep the business viable and in continuous operation. He has 120 customers who walk through his door each day to check their mail.

He's also concerned about ease of access for his many customers during construction. And since the two-story building is scheduled for remodeling, he's concerned that work might disrupt his business.

But Jorgenson is definitely in favor of the overall reconstruction of the aging center.

'I'm excited (about the proposal),' he said, 'and I think the center has needed to be re-done for many years. I support what is proposed, but I'm sitting on the edge of a two-edge sword. I embrace the idea, but it will make it very difficult for me.'

Berg said there is a lack of communication about the progress of construction plans.

'We don't know if this will take 10 months or a year or if it might drag out longer than that,' he said. 'My concern is that when they knock this building down and tear up the parking lot, how dusty and rocky it will be.'

But Berg believes the reconstruction is overdue, and looks forward to next year when he hopes to be lodged in new quarters.

'We're keeping our fingers crossed that it will be a lot nicer,' he said, 'but the rent will be significantly higher.'

Ixtapa Mexican Restaurant Co-owner Rigo Robles and his two partners say they are at a loss to know what to do. No other venue has been located, and they have only four weeks to get out.

'We are trying really hard to decide,' he said, 'but we haven't made a final decision yet.'

To move and hook up all of the kitchen equipment to utilities seems like a difficult task, especially since the work would have to be repeated when the new buildings are built.

Robles, however, has two different partners with interest in another restaurant, the Los Cabos Mexican Restaurant in Woodburn, so Robles wouldn't be totally out of business, even though Ixtapa would.

McMenamin's Restaurant Marketing Director Renee Rank says the restaurant's managers are not well informed about what might occur in the shopping center. Bryce says he won't be remodeling that restaurant, located at the southeast corner of the property. But reconstruction of the shared parking lot would impact some.

Bill Pennell's business, Sew Special Embroidery, is in the building that might be spared while construction of the large building is being completed.

But Pennell, who has been at the business for 12 years, doesn't know what to do. He says he has many options, including retiring. But one thing he is certain about: He doesn't want to be in the new center.

'The new center will be prohibitively expensive for me,' he said, 'and my business doesn't really need that grand of a retail presence. But I'll have sad feelings about leaving Willamette.'

Pennell also says that he is ill-informed about progress on rebuilding the shopping center.

'They've never really kept us in the loop very well,' he said, 'and we're the ones that have been paying the rent for a long time in a sub-quality center.'

Kurt Schrader, D.V.M., who owns the Clackamas County Veterinary Clinic, is a little more positive and has hopes of increased business after construction is done.

'The owner has been pretty good about keeping us in the loop about what's going on,' said Dr. Schrader, 'and at the end of the day it will look quite a bit better - hopefully, an attractive commercial development for West Linn.'

The West Linn Chamber of Commerce has decided to move to Bolton, to 'The Little Yellow House,' a historic home near Elliott Street and Hwy. 43.

'(The demolition/construction schedule) didn't seem like it was offering us a stable enough option,' said Chamber Executive Director Mary Closson. 'And moving to the Bolton site turned out to be a very good option for us.'