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PORTLAND, OR-The City of Portland’s urban renewal agency, the Portland Development Commission, is acquiring property adjacent to the former Grant Warehouse in Northeast Portland as part of its plan to see the entire block redeveloped with mixed-income housing. The acquisition of the 10,800-sf parcel at 427 NE Cook is on the PDC’s consent agenda this week and is expected to be approved.

The city took possession of the Grant Warehouse in November 2003 as part of a settlement between the owner and the federal Environmental Protection Agency regarding hazardous waste that was being stored on the site. The 16,200-sf site is located near the intersection of MLK Boulevard and Fremont Avenue, which is seen as a key commercial redevelopment “node.”

With the adjacent 10,800-sf site in hand, the PDC’s Ryan Moore tells GlobeSt.com the PDC will have just one 5,400-sf parcel left to acquire before it will own the entire block. The final parcel, which has been optioned by the agency, will allow the agency to move forward with its plans to put out an RFQ from developers interested in redeveloping the block with 50 units of mixed-income housing and approximately 3,000 sf of ground-floor retail.

The Grant Warehouse was a 19,000-sf building that had been used as a metallurgical laboratory to recover precious metals from waste received from other facilities. In late 1998 and early 1999, an EPA investigation found more than 10,000 containers in the building, including 55-gallon drums of industrial wastes. After tests demonstrated high concentrations of heavy metals in deteriorating containers, the EPA determined there was imminent threat to human health and the environment and began emergency abatement action.

After completing the emergency removal activities, the EPA began an effort to recoup more than $1.2 million in cleanup costs. The EPA eventually filed a lien on the property to prevent its sale and in December 1999 began foreclosure proceedings on the property. Since the EPA specifically deals with remediation of contaminants and not the ownership of property, the PDC expressed interest in purchasing the property to further neighborhood goals. For three years, the PDC participated in settlement negotiations with the EPA and the property owner to acquire the property.

As part of a court-approved settlement, the Portland Development Commission acquired the property for the appraised fair market value of $177,000, which former owner Erwin Grant must split with the EPAs partial reimbursement for the emergency abatement. The EPA is attempting no further actions against Grant because he has been determined to be mentally unfit to stand trial.

In anticipation of the acquisition, the PDC in October 2003 expanded the boundaries of the Oregon Convention Center Urban Renewal Area to include the Grant Warehouse and adjoining blocks. The move allowed URA tax increment funds to be used for acquisition of the site as well as its eventual redevelopment.

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