Unopened jail and 18 acres of industrial property in North Portland is sold to a developer for a fraction of its cost.

PORTLAND TRIBUNE: JONATHAN HOUSE - The never-used Wapato jail in North Portland.Multnomah County announced that it has finalized the sale of the never-opened Wapato jail for $5 million on Thursday.

The jail on 18 acres of industrial land in North Portland has been purchased by Kehoe Northwest Properties, LLC, which is owned by developer Marty Kehoe. The company previously offered to buy the property for 10.8 million last November, and the sale was then approved by the Multnomah County Commission.

But, just a few days before the dedline to finalize the sale, the company withdrew its offer and said it was only willing to pay $5 million for the property. The commission accepted the reduced offer on April 12 with only Commissioner Loretta Smith voting no. Smith, who also opposed the previous sale, argued the facility should be used as a homeless shelter and service center.

The jail was completed in 2004 at a cost of $58 million. It never opened after Oregon voters approved property tax limitation measures that reduce the money available to county to operate it. An analysis by the Portland Tribune found the county has paid over $90 million for the jail by the time of the sale, counting interest and maintenance payments.

None of the existing commissioners were on the board when the decision was made to build Wapato. Chair Deborah Kafoury has consistently opposed using Wapato for the homeless and has been trying to sell it for years. The $5 million will be used for housing.

"The long saga of Wapato is over,'' Kafoury said in an April 19 press release announcing the sale. "We didn't need it as a jail. We couldn't afford to convert it. We couldn't reach back into the past and recapture the money spent. But we could work with professional real estate managers to sell Wapato and get that property back on the tax rolls to bring vital revenue to serve those in our community who need us most.

"Today, I am relieved to say we have done that."

"Wapato has been a black hole for the taxpayers for too many years. This situation wasn't caused by the current Multnomah County Commissioners, it was caused by their predecessors. The current Commissioners had the courage to stop the ongoing losses and route the sale proceeds to homeless projects. No matter what the Commissioners did, they were going to be criticized, but they acted without concern of political ramifications, and they found the best possible solution to a bad situation. It is our hope that we can turn this property into something that is beneficial to both Portland and Multnomah County," said Kehoe.

You can read a pervious Portland Tribune story on the issue at

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