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Port takes stock of infrastructure

The path to some significant improvements to the Hood River waterfront has been eased, thanks to a financing agreement between the Port of Hood River, the City of Hood River and the Hood River Waterfront and the Hood River Urban Renewal Agency.

The Hood River Urban Renewal Agency was presented with the potential agreement at its meeting earlier this week, and pending approval, the plan would allow for quicker repayment of loans.

The agreement changes how several of the loans for City and Port projects are structured based on a higher tax increment to fund Urban Renewal projects.

City and Port sewer project loan rates will be converted to a 2 percent rate and all other Port loans will be transferred into one loan also with a 2 percent rate, allowing the loans to be paid back more quickly.

The repayment will help clear the way for improvements on the waterfront, including angled parking and continued city and port collaboration on Nichols Basin improvements.

“Infrastructure is the huge hurdle to overcome; this more rapid repayment allows for infrastructure improvements on Lot 1 and Nichols Basin,” Port Executive Director Michael McElwee said. “And it can happen more quickly because of this agreement.”

In other Port news:

n At the Feb. 5 Port Commission meeting, the commission received a report from Development Director Steve Burdick on the state of Port-owned buildings.

The properties Burdick reviewed for the commission included the Port office, Marina Office 1, which houses the Chamber of Commerce and Visitors Information, and Marina Office 2, which is home to the DMV; the Expo Center, Halyard Building, Maritime Building, Jensen Building, Big 7 Building, Wasco Building and Timber Incubator Building.

Of the buildings surveyed, the Port considers the Port office, the Big 7 Building and the Timber Incubator building to be its longest-term assets.

Some buildings may eventually age enough over the next decade to warrant demolition, including the two Marina office buildings. McElwee said that the area, with its commercial zoning, could eventually be due for improvements to allow for “a higher, better use.”

The visitor center and chamber of commerce offices were recently renovated, and McElwee said the Port would continue to evaluate improvements of buildings as well as future needs.

The Port hopes to re-purpose the Expo Center building within the next two years, with Full Sail, the building’s primary tenant, scheduled to leave the building in June 2014.

Buildings due for upgrades or rebuilds in the next decade include the Maritime Building and Jensen Building.

Buildings such as the Halyard and Wasco could be put up for sale over the next five years.

McElwee said the Port is trying to get a better understanding of the state of its buildings, and the different components of its facilities to allow for better longer-term — and annual budgetary — planning.

n The Port also signed a short-term lease with energy food maker PocketFuel to allow the company to move store product and shipments in the Big 7 building while its new quarters in the Halyard Building are under construction.

n The Port has a new aerial overflight photo of the waterfront to allow it see how things have changed over the past several years.

McElwee said the Port attempts to have a new photo taken every two years, and this time it was particularly important, given recent construction on the waterfront and continual changes to the sandbar at the mouth of the Hood River.

The new photo should be available on the Port’s website in the near future.

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