Photo by Patrick Mulvihill
The Port of Hood River is planning to purchase the former site of the lower Hanel Mill in Odell by July 6. The 9.3-acre property, visible from Highway 35 just before entering Odell, is zoned light industrial and is planned to be used by the port for economic development purposes.
As of Tuesday, April 7, 2015
The Port of Hood River is taking final steps to close on the purchase of a 9-acre property in Odell, the former lower Hanel Mill site. The vacant lot could become a valuable property for the Port as early as July.
The property sits just off Highway 35 north of Odell at 3289 Neal Creek Mill, near the tracks of Mt. Hood Railroad — a potential spot for businesses in need of rail and highway access. The Port is interested in subdividing the 9.3 acres into several parcels for light industrial use.
“We’ve got a pretty clear path to finish the work we need to do to close,” said Port Executive Director Michael McElwee.
The Port originally voted to purchase the site from Hanel Development Group in May of 2014 at the price tag of $850,000, subject to a five-month due diligence process. However, the commission decided it needed more time to assess the property for “surprises” such as environmental contaminants, said McElwee.
“The commission wasn’t comfortable with that price with those risks,” said McElwee. “So essentially the purchase and sale agreement expired but we remained interested in it.”
The port underwent extensive environmental analyses before agreeing to renew their sale contract early this year with a new, shorter due diligence period. The new deadline is July 6, but the port could take action and buy the property before then, McElwee said.
The lower Hanel Mill is the last piece of the Hanel Family’s mill land holdings in Hood River County. The rest has been sold off over the last two decades to light industrial businesses including Mt. Hood Forest Products and Cardinal Glass.
The final lot remains vacant except for a 20,000-square-foot building and a 50,000-square-foot building, previously used for storage and offices. Stray rubble and piles of wood litter the scene.
Because it was half-century-old mill with an unknown history of environmental practices, the Port took months to analyze the property, teaming up with environmental and utility specialists.
Anne Medenbach, Port Development and Property Manager, said the team found no hazardous material in the soil, just an abundance of sawdust.
“Now we’re to the point where we can move forward with the property in a clean state, once we’re through with our final cleanup projects, and we can move forward with site development,” said Medenbach.
The port will now need to install basic utilities and clean up the lot and grading and other groundwork before the land will be considered “saleable.” They will also need to clarify the layout of each legal zone they are looking to parcel out for business purposes.
McElwee said the property is significant because light industrial businesses have limited options within the Hood River Port District.
“We’re so tight here … there’s not a good place to do it on the waterfront or downtown, so this is the next closest, best place,” said McElwee.
If the sale closes, the Hanel property will become one of two properties the port owns in Odell. In 1990, the port developed John Weber Business Park, located on Eagle Loop, but the port now only owns one building, which is currently the site of operations for Wyeast Laboratories.
McElwee said the port has been in communication with businesses that are looking to possibly locate in their new property. However, the port has not yet publicly named any of the businesses.