Council moves to sell old library building
There may yet be frosty brews and interesting opportunities emanating from the ghost of the old Canby Public Library building.
The concept of a "Canby Beer Library," which appeared dead in the water midway through 2020, moved a giant step closer to fruition Wednesday, Feb. 3, when the Canby City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to sell the old library building to Oregon City Brewing Company. The ordinance will be up for a second reading Feb. 17.
Economic Development Director Jamie Stickel said Oregon City Brewing not only agreed to a purchase price but has agreed to make a minimum of $1 million in upgrades to the building — and will probably make more.
"I really think the project is unique and will offer options for families, adults and kids, and is going to offer options for smaller start-ups. I think that's really exciting," Stickel said. "One of the things I talk about often is that downtown doesn't have a lot of vacancies, but they have some big vacancies, and the library is one we can point to. I'm excited about the opportunity for the two retail spaces proposed (along) Third Avenue that will appeal to businesses looking for a location downtown."
For its part, the city of Canby's sale price to Oregon City Brewing was $500,000 with a $100,000 clause — a promissory note in that amount which would be due if Oregon City Brewing Company does not complete a minimum of $1 million in upgrades.
Stickel said that $100,000 promissory note is in place "to ensure that Oregon City Brewing Company is going to complete the work outlined in their proposal."
And that proposal is to transform the former library building into a brewery/cidery and a family-friendly arcade, with two retail spaces, indoor food carts and an indoor atrium.
However, the decision was not without opposition, as three community members spoke against the sale.
Peter Hostetler, vice president at Ken Hostetler Construction, offered a lengthy explanation as to why he disapproved of the process to sell the building. He pointed out that according to Oregon law, the city was required to publish a notice of the proposed sale in a newspaper with generous circulation in the city, but Hostetler did not see the notice in the Herald-Pioneer.
Attorney Joe Lindsay later noted that the city opted to put the notice in the Oregonian this time due to time constraints.
Hostetler further complained that the city should have posted the building for sale in a public forum and sold it for market price, which he estimated was more than $1 million.
"The public demands that this property be marketed conventionally by professionals to get the best price for the only 10,000 square-foot-plus building downtown that's available," Hostetler said. "There should be no problem getting reasonable offers for businesses that benefit the community. You might still get a beer library without having to sell at a substantial loss to the public wallet."
Finally, Hostetler questioned the city's decision to hold a public hearing and vote on the sale in the same meeting.
Later, City Administrator Scott Archer told councilors they were within their rights to go about the sale the way they have.
"The council made decisions along the way to choose to go about this process in a specific way so that you could have a say in what happens at the property," Archer said, "versus simply putting it up for sale to the highest bidder and having essentially no control over who or what ends up in the building. I just want to assure you that you are within your rights to have this type of process versus another one."
Next to speak against the sale was James Hieb, who suggested adjusting the penalty clause from $100,000 up to market value to prevent the brewery from reselling the property for a profit.
Finally, Mary Hanlon, developer of the Canby Civic Block that includes the Dahlia building, the old police station, the former utility building and more, spoke against the sale, saying negotiations to sell the old library were done "in the dark."
"We have been working diligently to get a brew pub while the city has been negotiating with people which we were completely unaware of a half a block away to do the same thing," Hanlon said. "That's not a good use of resources."
Lindsay contested the notion that the process was done in the dark.
"Having not zero but three different moments of expressions of interest over the last four years, at what point did anyone in this community not know that we were looking for a suitor for this building?"
Lindsay also suggested that it is more beneficial for the Canby Civic Block to fill neighboring spaces than have them sitting empty.
"Letting some building [remain] fallow next to what you're trying to prove is vibrant is actually a worse strategy than filling it up with something cool and looking vibrant when new suitors come to town," Lindsay said.
The former Canby Public Library has been vacant since 2016, when the city of Canby built the new library and civic center on Northeast Second Avenue. The city has opened three Requests for Expressions of Interest — in summer 2017, fall 2018 and February 2020.
The 2017 and 2018 RFEI's received three and four proposals, respectively. In both cases, the city began negotiations with a company and after a period of time determined the negotiations would not continue.
In 2019, the city explored the possibility of turning the building into a public market with spaces available for retail, restaurant and office. Stickel applied for and received a $200,000 Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant to assist with funding façade renovations on the building. The city received cost estimates of $3.495 million for the renovations for the public market.
The city council revisited the issue of the former library building at a Jan. 15 2020 work session. There was consensus among city councilors to stop work on a potential public market and reopen the RFEI for the month of February 2020. At a May 6 executive session, the council reviewed the four proposals received and the consensus was to move forward with Oregon City Brewing Company with their proposal for the "Beer Library."
Oregon City Brewing initially came in with an offer that had been amended down to $10,000 due to COVID-19, an offer the city council rejected after deeming it far too low. Stickel was then asked to resume negotiations in seeking a more representative price. Those continued negotiations led to Wednesday's council vote and thoughts of what might be.
"I think there's a lot of potential for that corner to turn into a hub, and it will really help to mirror some of the other efforts being made in downtown and throughout Canby," Stickel said. "It's only going to complement what's happening in Canby. And frankly, it will help with Wait Park. It will provide an opportunity for that area to be vibrant and lively, which is what our city council envisioned for that corner."
Now, Oregon City Brewing would like to use that $200,000 revitalization grant on the building toward what owner Bryce Morrow expects to be more than $2 million in renovations. Morrow was on call at the council meeting. He said in 2014 when they opened in Oregon City, there were no breweries. Now there are three, and Morrow said they're thriving.
"That's what I think about Canby," Morrow said. "Canby is I believe the largest municipal area without a brewery. I'd love to change that. We really want to build a community gathering place."
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