FALLS CITY — The city of Falls City hopes to build a partnership with Polk County to redevelop a vacant property it owns on North Main Street into an operating business.
In 2017, the owner of the then-Little Luckiamute Clinic donated the property, located at 304 N. Main, to the city. It has since been vacant and falling into disrepair.
The next year, the city formed a committee to explore options to occupy the building, with the possibility that the new tenant would repair the building in exchange for little or no rent for a certain amount of time.
“The advisory committee made a suggestion and that is to partner with Turning Earth Farms, have them fix it up and do a contract,” said city manager Mac Corthell at a council meeting in December.
Turning Earth Farms would have made the building into a community/multi-use center and would have managed it.
“It didn’t work out. When we attempted to negotiate, I think there were some things they didn’t anticipate that they would need to be responsible for,” Corthell said. “It wasn’t a feasible agreement to be made.”
He said the contract was scrapped and so was the advisory committee.
Corthell said having the building vacant and deteriorating will eventually be a liability to the city, so he proposed a plan to put the property into use again.
“It’s in a prime location in Falls City, so we really need to look at moving that thing one way or another,” Corthell said. “We are looking into the cost to get it habitable, and my goal and plan is to discuss the potential of a two-part grant with the county. The county offers an economic vitality grant, if you will. They give out $30,000 for free to businesses that create jobs in Polk County. I’m going to attempt to partner with them.”
He said the hope is to get cost estimates to repair the property for occupancy and seek a grant to pay for the work. Then once a tenant has been identified, apply for an economic opportunity grant from Polk County to help the business get started.
He said the option could be more beneficial than selling the property, because it could eventually become a revenue source with a lease, and the city would have more control on what kind of business occupied the property.
William Sullivan, an AmeriCorps Resource Assistance for Rural Economics participant working for the city, said the first step is finding out how much it will cost to rehabilitate the building.
“We will have some contractors take a look at it and get some itemized numbers to bring back to council,” Sullivan said.
Mayor Jeremy Gordon said he liked the idea of spending money on the former clinic to help get it occupied.
“I think the city should invest a little in that property,” he said. “If we are asking people to clean up theirs, we should be taking care of ours.”