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Development of Carnation property looks do-able

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Jim Darling of Maul Foster Alongi explains details of an analysis of Sunnyside's Carnation property completed by his firm.

The Port of Sunnyside has been integrally involved in a study of the former Carnation plant site.

The port received grant funding to conduct an analysis of the site for the purpose of economic development.

Property Development Manager Jed Crowther last night told community members at a special meeting focused on the development of the property, "The property has both unique challenges and some opportunities."

Maul Foster Alongi was contracted by the Port of Sunnyside to conduct a full analysis of the Carnation site, which was foreclosed on by U.S. Bank a few years ago. The bank is offering to allow the Port of Sunnyside to take over the property at no charge.

Crowther said the analysis of the property was conducted, looking at its development potential from a number of angles, including an environmental study.

"From what we have seen, the port is in a position to move forward," he said.

Jim Darling of Maul Foster Alongi said the grant the port was awarded is an integrated planning grant and was made possible after voters approved a fund to help local governments clean up contaminated properties in the state. That fund was approved in 1988.

"The port has some goals...to get the property back on the tax rolls and to create job development (opportunities)," said Darling.

He said his firm learned there has been concern over environmental issues, which scared away potential owners.

"We are in the sixth inning of this project," said Darling, stating the environmental issues were not as bad as some may have believed.

"The property is relatively clean," he said, stating there is some contamination on the property, but it appears to be safe for development.

His colleague, Mike Stringer, said the analysis of the property was unique.

"It's pretty uncommon to play the role of scientist and developer," said Stringer.

He said Maul Foster Alongi used past studies of the property and built on them.

Stringer said two chemicals have been discovered on the property, both of which appear to be easily cleaned up.

A chemical used in fuel years ago, he said, looks to have been cleaned up by time and the other chemical, primarily used in dry cleaning, will require the use of other measures that can eliminate environmental concerns.

"There are chemicals that can clean up other chemicals," said Stringer.

Darling told those at the meeting his firm has identified four potential uses of the property, which city of Sunnyside Planner Jamey Ayling said is zoned for light industrial use.

Darling said the property can be used for boutique food processing, institutional use such as a vocational training center, special interest businesses that serve the community or light manufacturing.

"We want to burrow down to what makes sense," he said.

Financial concerns, said Stringer, are the biggest hurdle that must be crossed to develop the property.

He said the building and tower on the site have some historical significance to the community.

William Schroeder of Reiss-Landrau Research evaluated the historical significance and said the building was constructed in different phases. The original sections of the building include the front façade with the glass blocks.

He said "Not all things are of equal value...it is agreed the office space with the glass blocks and interesting façade are of the most historic significance."

Schroeder said the interior of the structure is not of the same significance and is therefore not as much of a concern.

He said his firm recommends saving the portion of the building that is most important to the community, stating it can also potentially be registered as a historic site.

Schroeder also recommended saving the tower, which stands as a landmark to the community.

Lyle Erlewine also consulted on the property, giving an analysis of his findings for those present at last night's public meeting.

He said some of the challenges presented by the construction of the building include different floor levels and a lack of handicap accessibility.

"We have looked at what can be salvaged and what is of little value," he said, stating the boiler room must be removed. That is the portion of the building with tin siding.

Jill Shuttleworth, a local engineer, agreed. She said the boiler room is very hazardous from an engineer's perspective.

She said other structural concerns include roofing and bowstring trusses that must be modified for safety and structural integrity.

Erlewine said there are some materials in the building made with asbestos that must also be removed.

"You expect that when you remodel older buildings," he said.

Lee Smith, who worked with the Port of Sunnyside on the Golob Landing project, was charged with assessing the economic value of the property.

He said his recommendation to the Port of Sunnyside regarding the Carnation property is to be conservative.

"An existing building is a major asset," Smith said, stating there are many ways for the port to redevelop the Carnation building site.

He believes there will be demands for property as the community continues to grow, and the options for utilizing the building vary.

However, because the redevelopment is guaranteed to be costly, Smith said grant funding is an option to pursue for the demolition of unnecessary structures and modification of the structure to be saved.

Darling said Maul Foster Alongi has evaluated the types of businesses that might be suited to the property, but asked for input from those attending last night's meeting.

Suggestions included a redistribution center for freight, an export center for new markets and new businesses, a livestock handling equipment company, a skills center that serves a secondary business, an incubator for wineries or breweries and a mixed retail outlet.

Those present for the meeting agreed that the historical façade and tower must be salvaged.

George Johnson, who once worked for Carnation, said he would be willing to donate his memorabilia as décor for the building if the right company moves in.

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