Stemper invests in site to expand available commercial spaceDevelopment continues on Astoria's east end, with construction on a riverfront business park at 39th Street set for March.

The first phase of the project will cost approximately $2.5 million and provide 50,000 square feet of commercial and industrial space, according to its developer, Randy Stemper.

The business park will join other recent east-end developments along the river, including the new Safeway supermarket, continued housing growth in Mill Pond Village and the renovation of the old Hanthorn Cannery, also at 39th Street.

Stemper hopes to have his development, which is called Astoria Business Park, open by June. He plans to lease the space to warehouses, light-manufacturing companies, and start-up businesses.

LORI ASSA - The Daily Astorian

Dan Heiner, left, and Ryker Sentgeorge do some repair work on the pier outside the Hanthorn Cannery on 39th Street.

"The concept was, if we could provide business space for people to start up new businesses or expand existing ones, that this would provide them a place to go and consolidate them together," said Stemper.

The nine-acre site is now vacant and stretches east from Lovvold's Trailer Court at 38th Street to 41st Street, and north from Lief Erikson Drive to the railroad tracks along the waterfront. The development's first phase will include three new buildings, a new cul-de-sac, and the surfacing of 39th Street, which is presently a gravel road, said Stemper, owner of Astoria Builders Supply.

The land, which was built with dredge spoils from the river, has never been developed, but there is a demand for the space, he said.

"We have a lot of people that have shown interest in the project," Stemper said. "... If everyone who expressed interest shows up when the buildings are done, we're 75 percent full."

Local leaders are hopeful the development will create opportunities for business and job growth in the city.

"It's a very important project for our town, because there are very few spaces along the river for new construction," said John Compere, associate director of the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce.

"We were excited to see some development there," said Todd Scott, the city of Astoria's community development director. "... It's been a vacant piece of property for some time now."

Stemper has been planning the project since 2000, when he purchased the property with co-owner, Harry Henke, a Seaside contractor and developer. The project was given preliminary approval by the Astoria Planning Commission in October.

A small stand of trees along the site's eastern border will be maintained, and Stemper plans to add a walking path along the railroad tracks.

The start of construction in March should coincide with completion of renovations at the old Hanthorn Cannery. The cannery, which consists of several buildings on a pier at 39th Street, dates to 1875 and has seen a variety of owners and upgrades through the years.

Floyd Holcom, an Astoria business consultant, is refurbishing part of the pier and plans to use it for commercial office space, a small, two-room hotel, and recreational boat yard. He purchased the property from Stemper and Henke, who came to it after the previous owner, Crystal Oceans Seafood, closed its doors.

"My goal was to maintain its position on the Astoria waterfront," said Holcom of the historical site, which he is calling Pier 39 Astoria. "It's a heck of a building."

Five of the planned nine offices at the pier are already rented to tenants, including Myriad Commercial Properties and Salmon For All. Holcom said he is financing the $250,000 renovations himself.

In 2000, Holcom and a partner, Bill Gunderson, were given the city's Edward Harvey Historic Preservation Award for exterior renovations to a building along the waterfront at 31st Street.

The improvements at Pier 39 are limited to a small section of the 84,000 square-foot facility. But that may be a wise tactic, according to city planner Rosemary Johnson.

"That's a big project to take on," said Johnson. "... Biting it off piece by piece is the way to do it."

She said the facility is basically in good condition and welcomes the renovation.

"Anytime we can have vacant buildings restored and put to a good viable use, that's great for Astoria," said Johnson.

However, she added Holcom's plans to use the facility for commercial office space must still be approved by the city planning commission, which will discuss the issue Tuesday.

Holcom believes the summertime demand by Portland-area anglers for the lone boat launch at the nearby East Mooring Basin will drive customers to his planned boat facility, which will include a launch.

"There just isn't anywhere around here that services these guys," said Holcom.


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