Port sells Expo Center, developer will tear down building

IN THE HEYDAY of Expo Center, the largest public building in the county served many roles, from home of Harvest Fest to serving as distribution center for Hood River Christmas Project, as shown in this 2004 photo of the west atrium entrance.

The Expo Building will crunch down to rubble this spring, making way for two new light industrial buildings on the Hood River Waterfront.

The Port of Hood River on Thursday sold the property at N. Second Street and Anchor Way to local developer Key Development Corp. for about $1.62 million.

The sale marks the second of two central waterfront parcels — collectively known as the Expo Site — to change hands within the last year. The Port sold the west portion, which includes the parking lot and vacant area located south of Portway Avenue, to Turtle Island Foods (Tofurky) this winter.

Tofurky, a local vegetarian food processing company, plans to build a roughly 20,000-square-foot refrigeration and distribution facility with about 47 parking spaces. A loading bay will be designed for the south end of the building off Anchor Way, where trucks will roll in.

Builders haven’t broken ground yet, but construction on the Tofurky project is expected within spring.

The east Expo Site parcel, which hosts the cavernous, semi-abandoned Expo Building, now goes to Key Development. The company plans to build two 15,000-square-foot buildings, along Portway, to the north and east of the current Expo Building.

Per the deal with the Port and City of Hood River, Key Development won’t be allowed to get building permits for the new structures until they demolish the old Expo Building.

Claudia von Flotow, Key Development project manager, expects the demolition within the next few weeks — by the end of spring at the latest. In the meantime, the company is hashing out whether they can salvage parts of the Expo Building.

As for the new buildings, von Flotow said appearance and pedestrian access were important factors, as well as industrial needs.

“The Expo Site has a lot of history and it’s so visible from downtown and the highway. We’ve been (considering) how it’s perceived from all angles … we wanted an accessible feel to it,” von Flotow said.

Details aren’t set in stone, but according to a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) with the Port, the new buildings will be three stories tall, oriented to the north and east with views of the Columbia River. Inside, space will be given for industrial, office and retail.

“Special architectural features” are required in the deal, such as entry plaza spaces and indoor bicycle parking. Skylab Architecture, based in Portland, will take the reins on design elements. The buildings will be made of concrete masonry or brick, and include steel, wood, and glass details.

Jeff Pickhardt, president of Key Development, said the strategy behind multiple smaller buildings is forming a visual corridor and a feeling of open space.

Port Executive Director Michael McElwee said Key Development followed the City and Port’s design guidelines with “very creative, innovative architecture.”

Von Flotow didn’t name tenants who will occupy the new buildings, but she said they’ll make for a natural mix within the waterfront’s industrial and commercial lineup.

After teardown of the Expo Building, its footprint will become a parking lot to serve the light industrial tenants. The two new buildings by Key Development are scheduled for completion within a year.

Since 2013, the port has discussed taking down the old Expo Building to make way for new buildings, and parking space to suit them.

The Expo Center has been largely vacant since 2006, and was last used as office space and warehouses for Full Sail Brewing Co. for several years until early 2014, when the brewery completed its expansion downtown. In winter 2015, the north annex of expo center hosted the seasonal Warming Shelter, and valley fire departments used the inside of the building for a simulated fire training exercise in early 2015.

Some nearby waterfront businesses, such as Solstice Wood Fire Café & Bar, had been using the building until last week for extra storage, but the sale didn’t catch any of them by surprise. “Everyone knew the building was going to be sold,” McElwee said.

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