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City of Forest Grove to purchase 2.68 acre downtown parcel

The Times-Litho building, empty for four years, has potential for development, officials say


The Times-Litho property takes up nearly a full city block, wrapping around the U.S. Post Office (on 21st Avenue). The adjacent parcel, (north of 21st Avenue), is a parking lot. After more than four years of trying to drum up interest in a prime piece of commercial real estate, the City of Forest Grove plans to buy the land itself.

On Friday afternoon, city councilors, in a tense 4-3 vote, agreed to buy the vacant Times-Litho property, which takes up nearly an entire city block on the west edge of downtown, for $800,000. Under the terms of the deal, which is not yet final, the city will pay an $80,000 downpayment and finance the remaining 90 percent of the cost through a 20-year mortgage.

The 2.68-acre parcel, at the corner of Pacific Avenue and A Street, once housed one of the region's largest commercial printing operations. It’s been vacant since November 2008, when its former owner, Northwest Web of Eugene, abruptly shut its doors, putting 60 people out of work.

Since then the property, now owned by Bank of the West, has attracted little interest, in part because of its size. It includes a 7,250-square-foot office building (along Pacific Avenue), a cavernous 45,000-square-foot industrial building (stretching between A Street and B Street), a small rental home (along B Street) and a parking lot on the corner of A Street and 21st Avenue.

City officials had hoped someone would come in with a proposal for a development featuring a mix of housing, commercial and retail space — in effect, extending the city’s downtown to the west.

But as the asking price — originally over $2 million — continued to drop, they worried someone might snatch it up for warehouse space or other uses that create few jobs or other amenities.

City Manager Michael Sykes and Mayor Pete Truax said that by purchasing the property they hope to generate interest from others who may want to lease or develop part of the parcel, but can’t foot the entire bill.

Truax said the purchase sends a strong signal that the city is serious about economic development.

Others noted that the site could serve as a location for a new police station, which as been discussed for several years.

“This is an opportunity that is too good to pass up,” said Councilor Richard Kidd, who was joined by Truax and Councilors Camille Miller and Ron Thompson in voting “yes.”

For Councilors Victoria Lowe, Elena Uhing and Tom Johnston, however, the risks and costs were too high.

Lowe and Uhing didn’t like the fact that bank officials were urging the city to move quickly, saying there were two other undisclosed offers on the table and that they needed an answer by Dec. 31.

“Decisions made in haste are the ones you regret most,” said Lowe, who fears the cost of financing the purchase will cut into city services.

Johnston said that while the site represents great opportunities, he worries that the costs of renovations needed to use the property will prove too high for the city to manage.




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