By Carol McCracken (Post # 1,498)
The terms of a proposed contract of sale between Rockbridge Capital and the City of Portland were disclosed this afternoon by the City’s Economic Development Office. The parcel of land is called the Congress Square Plaza and is located in the downtown arts district. The proposed contract of sale is the sole item on the agenda for a city committee to discuss and vote on this Wednesday, August 21, at 5:30 pm, at city hall. Councilor Nicholas Mavodones is chair of the Housing & Community Development Committee. The Committee’s recommendation will be forwarded to the City Council for its action, maybe in September.
Two years ago Rockbridge, who had purchased the historic Eastland Hotel, approached the city about purchasing the Plaza to be converted into a ball room for the future Westin Hotel. More recently, the use was changed to an events center for the Westin. The process getting to this point has been long and controversial – with the opponents of the sale, led by Frank Turek, waging a provocative campaign to pressure the city not to sell the space to Rockbridge for an events center. Their campaign continues. At one point, the group had considered hiring an attorney, but that has not been confirmed.
The proposed contract calls for a purchase price of $523,640 based on $55.12 per square foot based upon a market appraisal, according to a memorandum to the Committee from Greg Mitchell, the City’s Economic Development Director dated August 16th. The proposed contract includes about 9,500 sq. ft.of land, which is a portion of the Congress Square Plaza, next to the Westin Harbor View Hotel, formerly known as the Eastland Hotel.
A provision of the document intended to assuage the concerns of some in the arts community, states that the events center is to be converted to a public gallery space not less than 6 times a year. In order to accomplish this, the Westin will meet with the City and Creative Portland twice a year to negotiate the events. Several public benefits of the sale of Congress Square Plaza to Rockbridge include an attractive area that will draw more customers for downtown merchants. The income derived from the sale will generate proceeds for future City investments. The developer also agrees to contribute not more than $45,000 to be used for a new sidewalk along Congress Street.
Rockbridge can rescind the transaction if it does not receive all approvals for the event center by February 15, 2014. Likewise, the city can rescind the sale if Rockbridge does not receive all approvals by June 1, 2014.
In 1979, Housing and Urban Development and Urban Development Action Grant funds were used to support some investment in this parcel of land as well as in several buildings in the area. HUD requirements for the sale of this property require steps that the City has already begun to take.
Please see Post # 1,494, dated August 12, herein for more background information.