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Urban Renewal agency to consider 2014-15 budget June 9

The Columbia Gateway Urban Renewal Agency will hold a public hearing Monday on the 2014-15 budget and get updated on the status of Granada block redevelopment.

The board of directors, comprised of city councilors, will convene following the regular council meeting, which starts at 5:30 p.m. June 9 at city hall, 313 Court Street.

The total budget of the agency in the upcoming fiscal year is almost $4.6 million, which includes proceeds from the sale of two properties and $1.6 million in the debt service fund. Half of that fund is mandated to be kept in reserves and the remainder paid toward a 2009 bond of $8 million that is set to be retired by 2026 but which Nolan Young, city manager, would like to have repaid three years earlier.

Materials and services, capital outlay and contingency funds make up the remaining almost $3 million of the 2014-15 budget.

In the upcoming fiscal year, the agency will attempt to achieve these goals:

• Initiate construction of the Washington Street plaza and railroad underpass, as well as First Street streetscape. The plan for the undercrossing is to expend about $7 million — much of it from grants — to build two 60-foot tunnels under First Street and the railroad line. Eventually, the city wants a sunken plaza that provides even more space for community and tourism-related activities.

• Complete sale of the Recreation and Blue buildings with Rapoza Development, which plans to construct a new hotel and conference center on the Granada block. The Recreation building – to be demolished — and parking lot are being sold for $475,316, with a credit of $10,000 for past taxes that have already been paid. The Blue building will go for $380,000 and, at a later date, the Granada Theater for $365,406 and the Commodore II parking lot for $102,000.

• Construction of a public parking structure to accommodate siting of a new hotel on First Street (if Rapoza can get $15-20 million for the project). The cost for more than 360 parking spaces in 2013 was estimated at $4.8 million and included $2.7 million in private funding.

• Provide $300,000 in seed money for Civic Auditorium restoration.

• Invest $100,000 for a fountain in the Lewis and Clark Festival Park.

• Do preliminary design for West Gateway project. Urban renewal wants to upgrade the Cherry Heights Road and Second Street intersection and a roundabout, such as the one at the east end of town, is under consideration.

• Use $200,000 of funding to implement a for-profit façade restoration program for downtown buildings

•Place an additional $200,000 in the Property Owner Rehabilitation Program to upgrade the HVAC and sprinkler systems at the Granada Theater. Rapoza has agreed to keep the historical characteristics of the structure intact and it will become part of the hotel and conference center complex.

• Complete sale of Sunshine Mill property and payback of loan. Discover Development has agreed to pay $305,123.69 for the mill property at the eastern edge of town and close the deal by May 15, 2015. A loan of $600,000 was awarded by urban renewal after a lease was signed in 2009 and used to repurpose the facility, including converting the warehouse into a bottling plant. The loan is expected to be repaid by Oct. 14, 2014.

In the last 15 years, the agency has committed $20.2 million to leverage $17.8 million in grants and $51.3 million in private investment for downtown revitalization. The district was founded in 1998 and will be in existence until 2025. It currently generates about $1.3 million per year for projects that is maximized by outside funding.

In May, Michael Leash, principal for Rapoza, told the agency board that he would bring partners to the June 9 meeting to provide an update about the status of the project, including the status of financing efforts.

He provided the council with a handout describing Concept Entertainment Group, which could become food providers for the hotel. He said the individuals from the company had visited The Dalles during the Northwest Cherry Festival and were very interested in becoming part of the community.

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