Internal loan, timber sales earmarked for Boise Cascade Co. land deal

by: SPOTLIGHT FILE PHOTO - St. Helens City Administrator John Walsh (center-left) leads a site visit to the Boise Cascade Co. property south of Old Town St. Helens in February.The St. Helens City Council passed two resolutions to provide financing for the planned redevelopment of the old Boise Cascade Co. veneer plant property south of Old Town Wednesday, June 18.

Councilors voted to authorize a $1 million interfund loan from the city’s capital improvement fund toward “the further assessment, acquisition, design and potential development” of the property. They also passed another resolution dedicating proceeds from this year’s timber harvest on city forestlands toward “the acquisition, design and potential redevelopment” of the property.

Mayor Randy Peterson said Thursday morning the resolutions were mainly designed to ensure the city has enough money set aside to complete the transaction with Boise Cascade.

“We just want to make sure we have enough in there to cover it,” said Peterson. “If you don’t budget for it within the budget, then you can’t spend it.”

A recent survey of the property found it is about 22.1 acres in size, according to City Administrator John Walsh. It had previously been assessed by the county at 16.9 acres.

“It was a little bit bigger than what everybody thought,” Peterson remarked.

St. Helens and Boise Cascade signed a purchase and sale agreement for the former veneer plant property earlier this year, tentatively agreeing on a price of $3 per square foot. But in addition to purchasing the property, which Walsh said is expected to cost almost $2.89 million with its freshly assessed size factored in, St. Helens is weighing ambitious plans to transform the vacant strip of riverfront land into a mixed-use city center.

Walsh said the $1 million interfund loan approved by the City Council Wednesday is “just a safeguard” in case this year’s timber sale is not enough to cover the property’s purchase price.

Boise Cascade operated a veneer plant on the site until 2008. It has since removed its buildings and equipment from the property, but a chain-link fence warning against trespassing still separates it from Old Town.

An assessment team from the American Institute of Architects traveled to St. Helens last month to evaluate the city’s plans and make a recommendation for what to do with the waterfront property. It produced a vision of the land redeveloped with tourist attractions, multipurpose buildings and apartment housing, as well as trails and green space. City officials expressed excitement about the team’s visit and recommendations.

The purchase of the property is expected to be finalized later this year, Peterson and Walsh said.

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