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SALEM, OR-A group of local brokers and builders are partnering in a new venture called EcoWest, a development company that plans to acquire and develop property throughout the Northwest with an eye toward sustainability.

Chris Jones, a nationally recognized producer for the local Coldwell Banker Commercial brokerage franchise, is president and majority owner of the new company.

He tells GlobeSt.com the company’s first order of business is to make useful again the 30,467-sf Franklin Building, a structurally sound, six-story brick structure built in the early 1900s and owned by the county.

Primely located at the corner of High and State streets, directly across from the Marion County Courthouse, the building once housed the offices of the assessor, tax collector, treasurer, district attorney and other county staff. Save for some non-profit agencies that are receiving free rent, the building has been largely vacant since the county consolidated its offices last year at Courthouse Square.

The county entered into a purchase and sale agreement with EcoWest after a recent auction attracted no bidders. The minimum bid price was $1.275 million, just slightly over the appraised price. EcoWest will pay just $925,000 for the building. This week, as part of the agreement, it will be handing over the second half of a $50,000 non-refundable deposit.

Jones says he expects to lease the space at an annual rate of between $15/sf and $18/sf, depending on the cost of prepping the building for occupancy. “The day the county announced the sale, we got a flood of calls,” says Jones. “We have two law firms and a bank interested. The law firms are joking about how they’ll be able to yell out the window at their peers as they come out of the courthouse.”

Despite the promising prospects, Jones says EcoWest has given itself two years to fully lease the building, which has only a couple of dozen parking spaces but stands one block from a city-owned garage. Jones’ partners in the company include the managing partner of his chosen brokerage franchise, Alex Rhoten; Curt Pence, president of Pence/Kelly Construction; and Pence/Kelly executives Bob Hill, Wes McWhorter and Dave Hays.

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