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Chamber moves to new digs, city left with empty building

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce Communications Director Krissy Rowan (left) and staff member Tammy Beal proceed with redecorating the organizations new office space on Salish Lane in north Wilsonville. The offices opened to the public Jan. 6. There are boxes still to be unpacked. And there’s a bit of dust in the air.

But in the midst of a pivotal move to new headquarters at the north end of the city, Wilsonville Chamber of Commerce staffers probably could not care less about a little clutter. Not when an entirely new era for the organization is being ushered in.

The doors of the chamber’s new offices on Southwest Parkway Avenue reopened to the public Jan. 6, with operating hours currently set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. during weekdays.

“This move is a good thing for our members,” said Darren Harmon, 2014 chamber president. “The visitor center has taken time and resources that we can now devote entirely to the programs and services benefiting our chamber members.”

In its new space, the chamber will share a building with the Oregon Restaurant and Lodging Association, a group the chamber has long worked with. There, chamber CEO Steve Gilmore and his staff will have more than 1,300 square feet of office space to stretch out in, along with conference rooms and other amenities they will share with the rest of the building.

“We’re still unpacking,” Gilmore said. “But the move went actually better than expected, so that’s always a good thing.”

The new digs are a far cry from the past.

“The offices are set up so there’s more collaboration,” Communications Director Krissy Rowan said. “And being in a real office setting, I feel like it’s stepped up the professionalism. I really enjoy being able to walk across the hall to talk to a colleague rather than going through three or four doors.”

The conference space, she added, is larger and better equipped than at the former visitor center. The chamber even will be allowed to rent out the conference room to its members.

“It is really a lot nicer than the other location,” Rowan said. “It holds more people and the accommodations are more luxurious - but in an economical way.”

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The former Wilsonville Visitor Information Center is now vacant and will remain that way indefinitely, according to the city, while the cost to refurbish the building is tallied and repairs are undertaken. Last year, chamber officials conducted what they called a “robust review” of the public contracts involved in running the Wilsonville Visitor Information Center, where the chamber was based since the late 1990s. Members decided ultimately that the level of county funding given to the chamber to run the center was inadequate for the chamber to continue to provide the level of service the county and city expected. Changes had to be made, and both sides agreed on that, if not a whole lot else.

This came after more than a year of controversy, which started early in 2012 when the city of Wilsonville and Clackamas County conducted a financial review of public money provided to the chamber. In 2012 that amounted to a total of $153,000, with $87,000 coming from city of Wilsonville hotel room tax revenue. In return, the chamber staffed and helped run the Wilsonville Visitor Center, something in which it no longer has a role.

In the end, the two sides decided upon a mutually amicable split, and the Wilsonville Parks and Recreation Department was expected to move into the city-owned building after the first of the year.

Chamber officials also continue to look to future collaboration with the city and county on tourism and other issues and are conscious of the need to mend ties in the wake of the current saga.

“We are not abandoning our partnerships with the city of Wilsonville,” Gilmore said last fall. “The chamber will continue to be a part of promoting the community and making Wilsonville a great place to do business, live and visit.”

Repairs needed

by: SPOKESMAN PHOTO: JOSH KULLA - The former Wilsonville Visitor and Information Center, shown here, is slated to be filled by the Wilsonville Parks and Recreation Department. But that plan is on hold until officials assess what it will take to refurbish the building.With the first of the year having come and gone, however, parks and recreation staff still have not started any sort of transition to their planned space.

That has not escaped the attention of City Councilor Scott Starr, who warned Jan. 6 against letting the building sit vacant for any extended length of time.

“I think it would be good for the council to have a discussion about the potential costs of running it,” Starr said. “I just went over there and looked at an empty building and thought, “Oh, this could be a money pit.’ We need to be cognizant and stay ahead and not get caught with a large amount of costs.”

Wilsonville City Manager Bryan Cosgrove told councilors at a pre-meeting work session that a thorough evaluation of the building’s condition needs to be completed — along with any needed repairs — before any further action can be taken. There currently is no date set for reopening.

“There’s an assessment ongoing right now, with budget implications,” Cosgrove said. “It’s an older building that hasn’t been maintained — by anyone. It’s no money pit, but certainly there are some window issues, some roofing issues. But those are all normal wear and tear type of things.”

Cost estimates on any needed repairs will be forthcoming in the near future, he said, adding that his recommendation is to phase in needed improvements over time to dilute the impact of the cost.

“This all will come back to council in the future,” he said.




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