It’s official: HR Port to adapt Expo Center for commercial use

By SUE RYAN

News staff writer

December 9, 2006

Port of Hood River commissioners approved staff’s recommendation to adapt the Expo Center for commercial re-use.

The vote was unanimous. Commissioner Fred Duckwall was not present at the meeting.

Commission President Sherry Bohn said it was not an easy decision but one that took “years and years and years of discussion.”

The commission included in its resolution a number of conditions. Those include working closely with the Hood River Chamber of Commerce, other public agencies and users of the Expo Center on several issues.

The port plans to maintain the existing operations of the Expo Center through Dec. 2007. It will now begin a marketing effort to identify one or more businesses that may be interested in occupying the Expo Center in 2008.

Businesses targeted are ones that have a minimum of 40 living-wage jobs, that have growth potential and that are compatible with the long-term future of the waterfront.

The port will also start on necessary improvements to the Expo Center in 2007 that won’t negatively impact scheduled events or activities. The port plans to assist other public agencies in their efforts to evaluate the feasibility of developing a community facility to accommodate large public events if such a market exists in the future.

As far as Harvest Fest, one of the site’s largest events, the port plans to work with the chamber to evaluate the potential of relocating it to another site on the waterfront.

Commissioner Kathy Watson said several years ago she was a proponent of finishing the Expo Center as a small conference center when she served on the budget committee.

“We found it was just too expensive,” she said. “There really isn’t another direction for us to go.”

The port will assist the Chamber of Commerce in evaluating the potential to relocate the Hood River Visitors Center to another location by the end of 2007. Staff will give a progress report to the commission on the Expo Center changes by March 10, 2007.

The decision came about after a series of public meetings with users and stakeholders. The commissioners had decided that it was one of their goals for the year to decide what to do with the center, which has steadily lost money for the port.

Following the vote on the Expo Center, the commissioners heard a presentation on sustainability ideas for the waterfront from engineer Tom Puttman. The port contracted with his firm, David Evans and Associates Inc., of Portland, to identify specific concepts for future development.

“What we are looking at is how do we integrate the built environment with the natural environment?” Puttman said.

He presented several ideas including a ground-source heat pump system, a sewer plant effluent re-use system, and sustainable stormwater management system among them.

“In industrial ecology, you might be looking at attracting businesses where the waste of one might be the product of another,” he said.

In other business, the commission:

* Approved a three-year fixed base operation agreement with Flightline Design through Dec. 31, 2008, and retroactive to Jan. 1, 2006. Under it, the port will pay the company $1,500 a month for services.

* Retained Andrew Jansky, P.E., of Flowing Solutions Inc., to help staff identify options to consider dealing with changes at the mouth of the Hood River.

* Directed staff to interview two candidates, Laney Gale and Doug Archbald, for the one open waterfront committee position.

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