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Competing axe-throwing businesses set sights on mixed-use areas with newly relaxed land-use regulations

PMG PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Celtic Axe Throwers plans to have two axe-throwing lanes outside in a heated patio area at Washington and 14th streets, mere blocks from a possible competing business on 12th Street.Oregon City will potentially get its first food-cart pod and two competing axe-throwing establishments downtown, according to recently filed business permits and land-use applications.

Oregon City's longstanding rules banning food carts were overturned last year to allow mobile vendors in certain parts of downtown, as well as in mixed-use and industrial areas. Previously, food carts were only allowed at the future Willamette Falls development, or required temporary event permits.

Spicer Brothers Produce's closure in 2018 opened up a large piece of property at a key intersection in Oregon City that could define the tone of development in the area for decades to come.

PMG FILE PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Blue Ox Axe Throwing plans to open on Oregon City's 12th Street, about three blocks from a potential competitor at Corner 14.According to the Clackamas County assessor's office, the 0.67-acre property at 508 14th St. sold for $880,000 in 2018. Keith and Nancy Spicer sold the prime real estate to Larsen's Creamery owner Andy Gianopoulos' Clackamas Cream II LLC. The Spicers had bought the property for $250,000 in 1999 and subsequently gave the business to their two sons to run.

PMG FILE PHOTO: RAYMOND RENDLEMAN - Spicer Brothers Produce's Chris Spicer is now the sole owner with his wife, now that his brother Andy has left the family business in Oregon City.According to an application to the city, Gianopoulos is working with former Oregon City Mayor Dan Fowler, who recently had a deal to purchase the police station fall through, and Fowler's daughter Cherisse Reilly on the proposed food-cart pod. Fowler and Reilly are proposing a 12-cart food pod with ADA restrooms inside the approximately 2,800-square-foot old Spicer Brothers building. The one-story poured concrete structure built around 1940 had been a target for demolition, but their new company, Corner 14, has renovated it for a taphouse.

Corner 14's website lists Celtic Axe Throwers as a partner in the venture, with plans to have two axe-throwing lanes inside the taphouse building and two additional lanes outside in a heated patio area. Axe throwing has seen a surge in popularity, as organizers emphasize the safety of the sport practiced in fenced lanes constantly monitored by staff members.

Such safety measures for the sport are also touted by Blue Ox Axe Throwing, which has set its sights on the former Coyote Hobby building on 12th Street, about three blocks from Corner 14. According to its website, Blue Ox's first facility opened in Connecticut in 2018 and is expanding to five locations nationwide.

In Portland, many former food-cart pods have given way to large buildings, and Oregon City's Corner 14 could eventually head in the same direction. As part of the mixed-use zoning district downtown, the property is eligible for some of the densest development in Oregon City. A height limit of 58 feet remains in place.

Building three floors of residential housing on top of retail would make the property eligible for a 60 percent tax break on additional value created by the development. The breaks would go toward the property's city taxes for 10 years, thanks to the Vertical Housing Program administered by the Oregon Housing and Community Services.

Downtown Oregon City's new Opportunity Zone allows potential developers in to invest capital gains from other types of investments and defer taxes or possibly avoid having to pay capital gains taxes all together, depending on the length of the investment and its relative size. The amount of tax advantage is case-dependent and spelled out in the tax overhaul passed by Congress in 2018.

A free-standing building more than 60,000 square feet could be built as long as the building contains multiple stores, but big-box stores are discouraged by downtown Oregon City zoning.


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