Hood River Port considers Lower Mill land sale

THE LOWER MILL Redevelopment District in Odell, owned by the Port of Hood River, has found a first pending property buyer: Neal Creek Forest Products. The site of interest, located near this gate at Neal Creek Mill Road, will house a wood product manufacturing facility if plans reach completion.

An old mill site in Odell may be revived with a similar use in mind.

The Port of Hood River Commission last week approved a memorandum of understanding with a forest products company that has shown interest in buying land at the port’s Lower Mill Redevelopment District.

Neal Creek Forest Products, a company associated with Hood River-based Wyeast Timber Services LLC, would purchase a 4.7-acre piece of land on which to build a wood product manufacturing facility, if the MOU leads to a sale. The property sits between Neal Creek Mill Road and Lower Mill Drive.

It would be the first new business at the district since the port launched efforts in 2015 to repurpose the abandoned lower Hanel Mill site as an industrial park.

The MOU, a pending agreement between the port and Neal Creek Forest Products, lays out deal points and legal milestones over a six-month period that could lead to a purchase and sale agreement.

The port owns almost 12 acres at the Lower Mill District, near Highway 35, most of which formerly belonged to Hanel Development Group.

After the port bought the Lower Mill parcels, their staff worked with environmental teams and utility crews to clean up the mill site and prepare shovel-ready, industrial-zoned lots. The bulk of that work has wrapped up, resulting in three main lots.

The new forest products company would be a nod to the valley’s lumber days.

“It kind of comes full circle with what the site was originally used for,” said Anne Medenbach, port development and property manager.

Early plans from Neal Creek Forest Products indicate they will build a manufacturing plant onsite, along with a few other buildings, expanding the scope of their business. The company logs in the Columbia Gorge area.

“This is a local company that’s been operating already (and has) been successful in the wood products industry,” Medenbach said.

She noted the company plans to hire about 20-30 employees, adding significantly to the valley’s workforce.

Some final utility permitting remains before the property is ready for industrial activity. The port is working with Crystal Springs Water District to secure adequate fire flow for the property via off-site water access.

At this stage, port officials intend to keep ownership of one lot — the northernmost — at Lower Mill in order to lease it out to tenants, but they will sell the other two lots. The port has been in discussions with businesses that have shown interest in the lot along Highway 35, but no prospective buyer has been publicly disclosed.

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