Fort George Warehousing panorama

The former Astoria Warehousing property sits off the Astoria Riverwalk, east of the Astoria Bridge.

Fort George Brewery is preparing to buy the former Astoria Warehousing for canning and distribution operations.

The Astoria City Council on Monday unanimously approved a wholesale liquor license application for Fort George at the warehouses, along with a $1 million grant from the state to clean up petroleum contamination.

Chris Nemlowill, who started the brewery with Jack Harris in 2006, gave the City Council an overview of the company’s plans.

“For about the 20 months, we’ve been looking at property on the waterfront,” Nemlowill said. “For years now, we’ve just been looking for more space for can storage. We need more space to work on distribution. When we found this property was available, it was really ideal. It has loading docks. It’s a beautiful space on the waterfront.”

The owners of Astoria Warehousing Inc., a salmon-canning and-labeling company founded in 1983 and occupying several acres along the central waterfront near the Astoria Bridge, closed the operation last year and relocated to the Seattle area. The closure meant the loss of upward of 25 local jobs and left a large swath of land and warehouses along the waterfront primed for development.

Harris and Nemlowill started Fort George on Duane Street. With a growing reputation as one of the Pacific Northwest’s top craft breweries, the partners in 2009 purchased the entire city block, including the Fort George and Lovell buildings.

Harris and Nemlowill also purchased a plot of land at the North Coast Business Park in Warrenton for a distribution center and pub. But rumors have long swirled they had eyes for Astoria Warehousing.

“We saw 25 people let go, and what we’re really trying to do is kind (of) more of what we’ve already been doing at Fort George,” Nemlowill said. “We walk into an abandoned property, pick it back up (and) create jobs.”

The property near Uniontown, listed at $8.8 million, includes more than 5 acres of land, 7 acres over the Columbia River and four large warehouses totaling 120,000 square feet. Fort George’s purchase depended on getting $1 million from Business Oregon, the state’s economic development agency, to clean up contamination from an adjacent properties.

City councilors shared their joy at the property going to a local company with a proven track record of creating jobs and giving back to the community. Mayor Bruce Jones thanked state Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, for helping secure the grant in the last legislative session.

“I really think this is looking like this is going to be a great outcome for the property, both in local ownership, which is a positive, and that that warehouse area will actually have activity as opposed to no activity,” City Councilor Tom Brownson said. “I couldn’t ask for a better solution for that property.”

Edward Stratton is a reporter for The Astorian. Contact him at 971-704-1719 or estratton@dailyastorian.com.

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