Thursday, December 12, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
The 66-acre Dallas site that operated as a mill for more than 100 years is currently undergoing deconstruction.
August 27, 2013
DALLAS -- A multiple-user industrial park. A manufacturing site with existing rail service. An "incubator" space where developing manufacturing businesses can grow.
Those -- and more -- are the possibilities for the former Weyerhaeuser mill site in Dallas.
It's been exactly a year since the 66-acre site -- a mill for more than a century -- was sold to Northwest Demolition & Dismantling at auction.
In that time, the property has been largely cleared of functional mill equipment and structures in poor condition in a process that owners and city officials hope is the beginning of a rebirth of activity on the site.
"We are certainly hopeful that this will turn into a win-win situation," said Richard Wayper, Northwest Demolition & Dismantling's vice president of marketing."We feel it's likely that in a short amount of time that there will be something positive there. I think the future is bright."
To help that undetermined future take shape, the city requested assistance from the Oregon Department of Land Conservation and Development's Transportation and Growth Management (TGM) program.
TGM is paying for a consultant to prepare a redevelopment and marketing plan for the site in conjunction with the owner, the city and Salem-based Strategic Economic Development Corporation (SECTOR), which serves Marion and Polk counties.
"We are doing planning-level work," said Bill Holmstrom, TGM coordinator. "We are really figuring out what makes sense on this site from a marketing perspective."
Jason Locke, Dallas' community development director, said the final plan will keep the realities of the economy, local resources and the capabilities of the area's work force in mind.
Map of former mill site
He sees potential future uses of the property involving manufacturing and processing of products like cheese, wine and beer -- all growing industries in this area.
"Those are industries that are out of their infancy, so to speak, and are becoming more mature," he said. "Manufacturing capacity, distribution of those products, that is all going to become more important and it is capitalizing on a resource that is already here."
He said the goal of the plan would be to narrow the possibilities to what makes sense for the location and surrounding resources, but also remain flexible enough to consider the needs of multiple users.
Plenty of work needs to be done before any such vision can become reality.
Many of the buildings left on the site were built specifically for sawmill equipment and are not suitable for redevelopment.
"That is unfortunate," Locke said. "It would have been nice if there had been buildings that were salvageable for reuse, but that just wasn't the case."
However, the property does have a number of attractive features. Holmstrom, Locke and Wayper all acknowledge the site's best attributes as direct rail service, relatively close access to state highways, and existing power, water and wastewater infrastructure.
"There are a lot of benefits in this site that you don't find in a green field (undeveloped) site," Locke said. "The costs associated with developing this site could be significantly lower."
Locke said the city has been approached by businesses looking for developed, but flexible space. Until now, he said he hasn't had many places to direct them to.
"This site could provide an opportunity with amenable property owners that could satisfy that demand," he said.
Wayper added Northwest Demolition & Dismantling, with the city and state's assistance, will pursue interested parties, rather than let businesses find the property on their own.
Many of the buildings left on the mill site were built specifically for sawmill equipment like the one pictured above and are not suitable for redevelopment.
"We are actively engaging the community," Wayper said. "We could say, `Yeah, it's for lease or for sale' and let nature run its course, but we are not going to do that."
Wayper said he expects work on clearing the site to continue for another year or more, leaving only the buildings that could be repurposed.
He said his company would be open to a number of possibilities after deconstruction is finished, including long-term leases or sale of the site to one or more owners.
"We will have a blank canvas," he said. "We are just trying to get the canvas cleaned up."
Locke added the city will place priority on activity resuming on the site.
"We certainly don't want to see a site sitting vacant, unused right in the middle of town," Locke said. "The fact that the city feels that this site is important enough to warrant us going to ask for some assistance (from the state) after discussing it with the property owner, it puts it in perspective. It's pretty important, particularly given the history of it."