State lawmakers have directed $1 million in lottery money for the cleanup and redevelopment of Astoria Warehousing, a sprawling former canned seafood packing and labeling complex on Marine Drive under contract to be sold.
The money was included in state House Bill 5050 — a so-called “Christmas tree bill” for different projects — along with $2 million to help turn a former youth prison in Warrenton into the new Clatsop County Jail and $1 million for stage and other improvements at the Liberty Theatre.
Peter Tadei, a listing agent for Astoria Warehousing, confirmed the sales contract but declined to name the potential buyer. The Uniontown property, 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.
Brett Estes, the city manager, said the city has had a number of discussions with Business Oregon over the past couple of months about cleanup of potential pollution and redevelopment of the property. The city would act as a pass-through for the state money.
“It’s a large piece of property that could have quite a bit of impact on the neighborhood,” Estes said.
Astoria Warehousing Inc. closed the complex last year when its parent companies moved operations to the Seattle area. Several hotels operate just west of the warehouse, with another proposed to the east.
Fort George Brewery, which purchased land at the North Coast Business Park in Warrenton for a new distribution campus and pub, has shown interest in the Astoria Warehousing property. The company’s ownership has declined to comment further.
The $2 million in state general funds for the Clatsop County Jail project will go toward deferred maintenance at the former Oregon Youth Authority facility.
Monica Steele, the interim county manager, said the county has been working with Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, to get funding for deferred maintenance.
Johnson, the co-chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means, has an important role in state spending.
“For years, Oregon Youth Authority had possession of that facility and the state didn’t provide adequate funding for their asset to make sure the building is taken care of and there is a significant amount of deferred maintenance out there. And so we’ve been working with her this past year to get funding and she was able to do so,” Steele said. “We are very excited.
“This was a long, hard fight that we truly appreciate her fighting on our behalf.”
The Legislature did not approve Senate Bill 678, which would have provided $1.9 million to fund the restoration of the Salvage Chief vessel for emergency response.
Floyd Holcom, who bought the Salvage Chief in 2015, believes the decommissioned vessel could be useful after a disaster.
Tiffany Brown, the county emergency manager, and others are skeptical about the project. Brown had alerted county commissioners to the bill last week.
“To get kicked in the stomach by your hometown team is purely unfortunate,” Holcom wrote on Facebook. “They have no plan.”
The Liberty Theatre landed $1 million in lottery money.
The money will go to the development of a fully operational stage and puts the organization in the running for larger grants to fund a $3.3 million capital campaign to modernize the theater and diversify the types of performances it can offer.
With money that has been raised through other efforts, the theater now has 40% of the capital campaign funded, according to Jennifer Crockett, the theater’s executive director.
She heard late Sunday night that HB 5050 had passed with the theater’s grant funding in place and was still processing the news Monday morning.
“This was just a crazy idea a year and a half ago and now we’re well on our way,” she said.
Work will begin immediately to improve the front of the theater and to renovate a concessions stand. “Those bring in money for operations right away,” Crockett said. The theater has already hired an architecture firm and contractors.
The state money will go toward the expansion of the theater’s stage, rigging, lighting and curtains, as well as the creation of dressing rooms and a loading area.
Crockett said the theater worked with Johnson on a strategy. “We met with her first and she told us what we should ask for based on how big our project was and what she thought she could get into the budget.
“She said $1 million so we asked for a million.”
Liberty representatives ended up meeting with almost everyone on Ways and Means and traveled to Salem several times to present the project. The organization had already researched how the renovations would improve the value of the theater’s offerings and provide economic benefit to the rest of Astoria.
Crockett and others involved with the Liberty started out confident their request for $1 million would be approved. But with the turmoil in Salem this session, and walkouts by Republican senators, Crockett worried about lengthy delays.
If the funding had not passed muster at the Legislature, all plans at the Liberty would have likely been on hold for another year.
With the state money guaranteed and the capital campaign moving briskly forward, Crockett and the Liberty Theatre’s board of directors are looking at how to begin increasing staff capacity. The organization plans to start an internship program and then staff for specialized positions, such as stage crew.