Naito purchases Nichols Boatworks

News staff writer

February 3, 2007

Nichols Boat Works Co. announced Thursday it sold its 5.27 acre parcel of land on the Hood River waterfront to Naito Development of Portland for an undisclosed price.

Naito is a well-known Portland developer. Among its projects is the One Waterfront Parkway Building.

Condominiums, hotel rooms and a restaurant are among the uses Naito is considering for the Hood River location.

“We are in discussions with a fabulous hotel operator, and we have architects drawing pretty pictures as we speak,” said Bob Naito of Naito Development Thursday.

We're pretty excited,” he said about the deal.

“In simple terms, we're tickled to death to close the deal,” said Bob Nichols. He is the third Nichols generation to operate the family business that began in 1941.

The property has been on the market for more than eight years, after declining timber product use in the Northwest reduced the demand for the barges and tugboats that were the company's mainstay.

In its 57-year history, Nichols Boat Works built hundreds of boats of all types — barges, fishing boats, ferries, tug boats, barge tenders and boom boats among them — but is best-known for building the sternwheeler Columbia Gorge for the Port of Cascade Locks.

Naito said the only cloud on the horizon is what he called “Nichols Island,” a sandbar created by flooding in December that currently blocks access from the river to the basin by the boat works.

“One of the things we really wanted to do with the hotel and condominium development was to put in a marina,” Naito said. “It's a natural fit.”

The presence of a sandbar, he added, made that portion of the proposed development questionable.

“The (Army Corps of Engineers) acknowledges its obligation to maintain a connecting channel,” Naito said.

“But all you have to do is look at all the small harbors on the coast like Garibaldi where they don't have funds to maintain the harbors. Fortunately, the marina isn't a deal-killer.”

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