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Potential urban renewal dollars would still not be enough for proposed construction on landfill, Summit Development says

With the election looming and with time running out to make their landfill-topping construction financially viable, the developers of a proposed 62-acre residential and shopping area in Oregon City formally asked the Urban Renewal Commission for $30 million in public funds.COURTESY RENDERING: LRS ARCHITECTS - An aerial view of the North End proposal shows Washington Street in the foreground and the current Home Depot parking lot on the left.

City commissioners have so far been expressing skepticism over the need for the city's contribution to private buildings on a former Oregon City landfill, and they've been delaying any referral of a public vote. Under the city's charter, any request to sell bonded public debt, such as through a large urban renewal project, must be approved through a vote of citizens.

In a document released by the city on Oct. 31, Summit Development Group's Oct. 6 formal request came the day after Oregon City Economic Development Manager James Graham told commissioners in a public meeting that Summit was asking for $30 million in public funding. During the Oct. 5 meeting, commissioners showed little enthusiasm for Summit's request, instead focusing on other items on their list of potential urban renewal projects.COURTESY RENDERING: LRS ARCHITECTS - A proposed Market Street would seek to mimic the vibrancy of downtown Oregon City.

Urban Renewal Commission Chair Frank O'Donnell said that the commissioners should be focused on city-owned properties, rather than a project that would benefit a private developer. During their recent discussions, commissioners saw the need to invest in environmental restoration for the city's Clackamette Cove property and wanted to keep funding in reserve for downtown improvements like a public parking garage that might be needed once the courthouse is moved to Red Soils.

"My financial responsibility is for the city, so I'll continue looking out for the best interests of the city," O'Donnell said.COURTESY RENDERING: LRS ARCHITECTS - Construction of public stairs and an elevator will be required to get people 30 feet up to the development from Washington Street, which is located on Oregon City's floodplain.

Summit Development President Seth Henderson wrote that the $30 million requested of the city won't cover all of the estimated more than $35 million shortfall to make the project financially viable.

"Note the amount requested for consideration is the lessor (sic) of the three values and does not incorporate any escalation from the original estimate date," Henderson wrote, using a word for the owner of a property (lessor) when he meant the least of the three numbers (lesser).

Henderson has the property's owner on his mind, since Summit Development has had to repeatedly pay an undisclosed amount to extend its right to purchase the property from the Parker family that ran the landfill business from the 1960s to 1983.

Summit's letter to commissioners showed other signs of being rushed in the wake of their Oct. 5 meeting, since it included two other grammatical errors in saying that "the criteria needs to be modified" for EPA grants and referred to "a RFP process." Henderson's reference to the Request For Proposals process emphasized how much more slowly the public process would move toward urban renewal, compared to the private sector.

Summit's proposed price for purchasing the property has also remained undisclosed, although developers say the total cost of the project would be more than $300 million to construct at the intersection of Interstate 205 and Highway 213.

"Each time the public vote is delayed, from November 2021, to May 2022, to November 2022, to May 2023, Summit has to negotiate an extension with the property owner for our Purchase and Sale Agreement (PSA) and pay for that extension. Our current extension goes through December 2023, at which time we will decide whether we believe this project can be financed," Henderson wrote to commissioners.COURTESY RENDERING: LRS ARCHITECTS - Summit Development's proposal in Oregon City includes a large public square on the former Rossman Landfill.

Summit Development has struggled to obtain other sources of public funding to cover its shortfall.

Henderson acknowledged that Summit missed an opportunity to obtain up to $10 million in EPA brownfield grants funded by the federal bipartisan infrastructure bill, but he is lobbying the federal government for rule changes to make it easier for private companies to obtain grants. Since being deemed ineligible for the first round of EPA brownfield grants, Summit would now be competing for up to $2 million grants.

Hearing the developer's request during the Oct. 5 meeting, Pamplin Media Group asked the city for correspondence related to the request on Oct. 7.

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