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Yoshida plans to build a destination hotel, convention center along River

An artist's rendering of what Eastwind Development's proposed new visitor's complex will look like.

The Troutdale Council voted Tuesday night to sell 12 acres of riverfront property to developer Junki Yoshida, who plans to build a hotel and convention center complex that the city hopes will become a visitor destination.

Although there could be complications, the sale culminates a nearly 20-year effort to develop the property wedged between downtown Troutdale and the Sandy River waterfront, behind the Columbia Gorge Premium Outlet Mall.

The purchase price for the city-owned property has been the major sticking point in negotiations between Yoshida’s Eastwind Development and the city. But the council was swayed by community members asking the city to embrace economic development. The 4-3 vote solidified the sale of Urban Renewal property to Eastwind, the result of negotiations over a two-year span.

With a sticker price of $1.5 million, Eastwind intends to construct a hotel and medium-sized convention center on the property, which also includes eight acres of the group’s own property.

Restaurants, a spa and recreation areas are also envisioned for reviving the blighted property.

Both the community and members of the council touted this vision as hope for a Troutdale property, which some consider a diamond in the rough.

“You can’t say it’s a good piece of land. It’s trash. But if it’s done right, it’s going to be a good piece of land,” said Terry Smoke, owner of Troutdale General Store. “I think it’s time we move. Every time we stall on a project it falls apart.”

With the support of local business groups, many who testified during the course of two-hour discussion, advocated for looking past the initial deal and into the future full of possibilities for Troutdale.

“We are going to be a pride of all the Portland area. No longer will we be the outcast. This will be where people want to come to,” said Rip Caswell, owner of Caswell Gallery. “It’s scary, but yes, something’s going to happen there. We’re going to have an opportunity to give voters something they voted for a long time ago.”

The Urban Renewal Area was originally approved by voters in 2006, forming the district as a way to finance the development of decrepit properties in Troutdale — specifically the 48 acres along the Sandy River, at the site of the former sewage treatment plant.

In the past, Troutdale had marketed the property, talking with developers with the hope to strike a deal and improve the waterfront. There was even talk of a deal with Cabelas Sporting Goods, which led Troutdale to pay for the right of way through the Columbia Gorge Premium Outlet Mall — necessary to provide sufficient access to the property. But that opportunity fell apart. The property sat for years, until 2014 when Eastwind started serious talks with the city to purchase the land.

Those talks led to a draft agreement last summer, but City Attorney Ed Trompke said it was hard to create a plan that was workable and agreeable to both parties. The largest issue was the price. The city’s appraisal came in at $6 million, while Eastwind attorney Matt Wand said their number was closer to $1.5 million.

“So instead, we’ve talked about something a little simpler, which resulted in the short agreement in front of you,” Trompke said during the special meeting.

The new agreement differed greatly from past proposals.

“It was clear that the reason we couldn’t come to a price was that the appraisers were asked to set the value of the property as if it was shovel-ready for development even though it is not currently in that condition,” Wand said.

So the shovel-ready assumption — which requires removing the sewer treatment plant at a potential $3 million cost — was removed, and Eastwind purchased the property as-is.

The simple document caused concern, however, to those who wanted each detail outlined. The required condemnation to build an access road through the outlet mall, for example.

“It makes sense to put it off until we know more about it,” Trompke said.

The city is in the midst of working through the condemnation process at the outlet mall, which is a requirement of the sale. If the road isn’t built, the city will instead purchase Eastwind’s eight acres in the urban renewal area. The result of those efforts, and the cost to the city, are still unknown.

Some suggested Eastwind should bare the cost of condemnation, but Wand said the road is vital to the sale.

“All we’re asking for in this deal is that you do the No. 1 priority (listed for the URA),” he said, which is providing access to the site using the previously purchased right of way.

Public input supportive

Some on the council were concerned there wasn’t enough time to gather public comment on the sale, but after hearing from more than 20 citizens, it was clear support was overwhelming.

“I want to congratulate you on a wonderful opportunity and to express my envy of the project you have before you,” said Lynn Snodgrass, Gresham Chamber CEO. “I envy the fact you have a ready and willing buyer who lives a mile or two down the road, not in California or New York, of future tax revenue, and a project that could partner with Mt. Hood Community College. I envy the possibility of hundreds of new jobs, not just during construction but as a permanent business venture.”

Metro Councilor Shirley Craddick spoke to the economic impact the project can have, while others commended the possibilities in the future, and the tax revenue in sight.

“Get the thing started today and in a decade you can look back and say we created something amazing,” said Dean Hurford, a Fairview developer.

Many used the phrase “Be bold” in asking the council to approve the sale, which fit with Daoust’s vision for the project.

“A couple years ago I told this council we need to be bold. It came up tonight from quite a few of you,” Daoust said.

He said he makes decisions in a way that will be the greatest good for the greatest number of people.

“That’s the way I hope the rest of the council can put this project in perspective,” he said.

The council, however, was not in unanimous support of the sale.

Councilor Dave Ripma, one of three councilors who voted against the sale, said he couldn’t support the plan because he felt the price was not a good deal for Troutdale, and expressed concern for the process.

“I might be able to support it if I had some answers,” Ripma said.

Among those voting for the sale, Councilor John Wilson said he thought everyone would like to see the project come to fruition.

“As I look at this project down there and see what it’s going to do for Troutdale, for East County and for the Gorge, I think this is a wonderful project,” Wilson said. “There are a lot of unknowns, but we have to move forward to figure out what these unknowns are.”

Councilor Eric Anderson said he agreed with Ripma.

“We owe the public more, but what we owe the public after 10 years of nothing is measurable progress,” Anderson said. “That’s what this is.”

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