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Independence Station Ends 2006 Still Unfinished

INDEPENDENCE -- Construction may finally resume on Independence Station sometime next spring.

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Construction of Independence Station began in 2004, and now will stretch into 2007.

INDEPENDENCE -- Construction may finally resume on Independence Station sometime next spring.

Developer Steven Ribeiro said he will submit final architectural drawings and engineering designs for the long-awaited complex by mid-January.

Pending city approval of the plans and secured financial backing, Ribeiro wants to put the project up for bid and have contractors ready to re-start work as early as March.

The site of the proposed 57,000 square foot commercial and residential complex - which will have a number of built-in energy sustainability features - has been devoid of activity for the past 10 months except for some limited construction work during the summer.

The building's array of environmental aspects have contributed to the slow timeline, Ribeiro said.

"If we had simply built a cookie-cutter building, things would have been a lot different," Ribeiro said.

Ribeiro is trying for certification in a national program called the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Projects are ranked according to their sustainable design elements

Independence Station is currently on track to earn a LEED platinum rating, and has the the potential of becoming one of the top four "green" structures in the world, Ribeiro has said.

Among the features: the second largest solar electric (PV) installation in Oregon and 132 BTU meters in different locations in the building. That would allow patrons and residents to fine-tune temperature control.

But refining such innovations and allowing for new ones has taken time. Ribeiro missed an August deadline to hand in architectural drawings to the city for site review to begin the next phase of construction.

He hired Ankrom Moisan Architect, one of the largest firms in the Northwest, in October to help speed up the process. Mark Seder, of Portland-based Sedar Architects, remains a consultant on the project.

Finances have also stymied progress, Ribeiro said. He said he held off on construction because of the threat of Measure 48, a voter initiative which sought to limit state spending.

Ribeiro's bond from the Oregon Department of Energy, which will cover a third of his development costs, could have been lost had the measure passed in November.

He also said local banks declined to provide loans for the project, forcing him to seek out-of-state lenders. The final cost for the building could range between $10 million and $15 million.

Once construction begins, it would take about a year to complete Independence Station, said Scott E. Thayer of Ankrom Moison.

"We would be fully into construction then, and hope to entirely avoid any more stops and starts," Thayer said.

Still, the delays have frustrated community members and city officials alike.

"I don't think anybody thinks there's been enough progress," said City Councilor Jerry Hoffman. "We're all anxious and eager to see some real changes in the building, and we've had a lot of citizens asking what's going on."

The foundation and footings of Independence Station were poured within weeks of Ribeiro's purchase of the the site in 2004, even before architectural drawings were finalized. Ribeiro said he had to start in order to avoid paying capital-gains tax on property he owns in California.

His consultants have meanwhile been working almost nonstop on the building's design.

"It's being built in a sequence people aren't familiar with," Ribeiro said.

He said he understands the concern over the pace of the project, but is adamant about sticking to his vision for the project.

"When you're aiming for a top LEED rating, there's always going to be design issues," he said. "But we've chosen to compromise time rather than quality."

Ribeiro said he plans to have an exhibit and tours of the building once it is finished.

"When it's done, people will look back on it and say, 'So what if it took a few extra months?'" he said. "We'll attract a lot of extra attention to Independence."

For more information: www.independencestation.com.

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