Officials met with potential developers for the unused parcel, but would not comment on who they were

GARY ALLEN - The Butler property across First Street from City Hall has been vacant since being acquired by the city in the 1990s.

The city of Newberg is remaining mum on potential developers for an empty lot across First Street from city hall, despite mentioning it in public notes.

City Manager Joe Hannan mentioned in his manager's notes that he, Community Development Coordinator Doug Rux and Public Works Director Jay Harris met with potential developers earlier in the month and discussed a "vision for the property and for subsequent potential development. Staff answered many questions about overall vision for Newberg and agreed to prepare an exclusive negotiating agreement for Council approval."

However, Rux said Friday that he was prohibited from speaking about the issue as it was still under protection of council executive session.

"I can't talk about that project," Rux said.

Hannan is out of the office until early November and has not discussed the issue further.

The Butler Property is known for being a former car dealership that was turned into a brown field property after being turned over to the city. It is home to a number of events, primarily in the summer, including a farmer's market and Brews and Barbecue.

Earlier this summer, the city sought Requests for Expressions of Interest (REOI) for the 10,300-square-foot property in the heart of downtown. The EOI documents from prospective applicants or buyers were due back Aug. 15, and the city was scheduled to conduct pre-submittal meetings in June.

"The offering is intended to be flexible," the REOI states. "The city is not seeking a detailed proposal at this time, although it will not reject any specific proposals that developers or others may seek to put forward for the property.

Rather, the city primarily seeks expressions of interest from developers, business owners, or others who may have ideas for the property. The city intends to select a proposal and enter into exclusive negotiations."

Concepts for the project highlight ideas that would draw more customers to the downtown area and could include housing over a ground floor retail shop. The city says it is open to a broad range of ideas as far as purchasing, leasing or leasing the land with an option to purchase.

The document states that the city welcomes a broad set of intentions on the part of the developer as long as it can prove a track record in other similar projects.

Restaurants and brewpubs that provide activities in the evening are desirable, as is new residential development.

The city stated it was more willing to sell the property to a developer "whose proposal requires no financial commitment on the part of the city compared to other proposals, all things being equal," according to the REOI.

The REOI listed several existing and future programs and assistance the city is willing to consider, including a vertical housing tax abatement, which began in 2003 under the Oregon Economic and Community Development Department (OECDD), known as Business Oregon.

The program encourages mixed-use commercial and residential developments and offers a partial property tax exemption.

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