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PORTLAND-The city council here has authorized the city’s urban renewal agency, the Portland Development Commission, to purchase an Old Town block for a new fire station. Owned by H. Naito Corp., the block is bounded by Northwest 1st Avenue, Naito Parkway and Couch and Davis streets. The city and Naito have yet to agree on a price, however, and eminent domain proceedings are still a possibility.The existing fire station is located at 55 Southwest Ash, at Ankeny Plaza, which is slated for redevelopment. PDC chairman Matt Hennessee says the agency believes the new station and new Ankeny Plaza will spur others to redevelop their properties, generating $500 million in private investment and significantly increasing property values. Whether or not the $500-million figure is achievable, PDC executive director Don Mazziotti says that without moving the fire station and redeveloping the current site, “it is unlikely that we would see significant investment along our waterfront for another generation.”Portland Fire & Rescue will begin designing the new station as soon as they take possession of the property this fall. PDC and PF&R plan to invite members of the Old Town/Chinatown Visions Committee and Neighborhood Association to participate in the planning and design phases for both the new station and Ankeny Plaza redevelopment. Construction for the new station is slated to begin in mid-2007; PDC hopes to launch a redevelopment planning effort for Ankeny Plaza/Skidmore Fountain/Burnside Bridge area in fall 2004. PDC and PF&R have been working under a tight deadline of Oct. 18, 2004, the date that PF&R must take possession of Block 8. Each month of delay past that date reduces PF&R project funds by $55,000 due to interest payments and inflation. This part of the project funding was provided by the General Obligation bond measure approved by voters in 1998. The city council’s vote follows eleven months of negotiation with the H. Naito Corp. to acquire Block 8. PDC and the property owners will continue working to reach a negotiated agreement until the latest possible date. PDC considers condemnation as a last resort, to be used only if negotiations are unsuccessful.

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