By Boyd C. Allen

Pilot Staff Writer

The port’s Green Building sits empty, unfinished and with broken windows in a field of mud and stored boats.

The Green Building – or the Grey Ghost as it is sometimes called – has been sitting unused for more than 15 years while the port has paid and paid.

Several Port of Brookings Harbor commissions have solicited ideas on how to complete or move on with the building, and although ideas have been presented, none have been completed or funded. The port received a loan for $672,500 in 2002 for the construction of the Green Building from Oregon Economic and Community Development Department, according to Port Manager Gary Dehlinger.

Originally, the building was to serve as another piece in the port’s commercial hub, another building like those present at the port today but on a grander scale –– two stories, skylights and fine dining.

However, according to a report by Eagle Two Development commissioned by the port in 2011, the original building permit was designated only for the shell and did not include any inside tenant improvements. Once the shell was enclosed and framed, construction stopped, and the building sat empty.

The building’s unique design makes some uses untenable and unknown costs and necessary improvements add uncertainty and create funding difficulties for any plan, according to the report.

Other issues include requirements to develop the site around the building and fix notched beams that were not installed in accordance with the engineered framing plan.

Overall the report concludes, in 2011 dollars, the building would require an investment of $900,000 to be finished inside and out and ready for tenants.

Recently, Port Commissioner Ken Range escorted Jan and Tim Amlin and George Morrison through the building.

Morrison said he and the Amlins were interested in creating a cultural center in the building and would try to get money for the project from the Oregon Lottery.

He emphasized they wanted to keep the building under port control.

Tim Amlin said the building should be a community space where the area’s Indian tribes, fish and wildlife agencies, forestry, logging and other historical interests could present their history along with a war memorial.

“We are the only coastal town without a public space,” he added. “We need a place to present the history of the area.”

The area needs a place to come to understand its past, according to Jan Amlin. She also suggested a banquet hall with a kitchen so paid events could be hosted.

Other parties have recently expressed interest in the building as well, including Craig Graber of Brookings Outreach Gospel Mission (OGM) and veterans advocate Connie Hunter.

An overview presented to the board Nov. 20 said Graber had hoped to use the building to house homeless families and individuals along with their pets, but, according to the document, Graber was asked to return with a business plan to develop the building and has not returned with a plan or contacted the port.

When contacted by the Pilot Dec. 11, Graber said the board of directors of the OGM voted to dissolve the corporation last September after being unsuccessful in gaining enough support from the community to restart and house the mission. He said there was community interest in a secular shelter but not in one that was Christ-centered.

OGM closed its former location in Harbor earlier this year.

Hunter addressed the board Aug. 21, proposed three plans and was asked to compile a list of “needs and questions” to present to port staff, according to the port review. The board has likewise not heard back from Hunter, according to Range.

The Infrastructure Finance Authority (IFA), a division of Business Oregon that holds the loans on the building now, would have to approve any plan, at no cost to the state, according to the overview.

Former, interim-manager Kathy Lindley-Hall and Dehlinger have contacted the IFA, according to Range, and the IFA has said it “will entertain anything reasonable.”

Past proposals

Brian Wagers presented a plan to the board in 2015 with Hunter’s support to turn the building into a veterans service center. Wagers, representing the Wild Rivers Veterans Organization (WRVO), said there was sufficient interest in the veteran’s community to remodel the building.

At the time, former commissioner Jim Relaford said the board needed a working plan within 90 days or it would move forward with plans to demolish the building. Other commissioners expressed doubt that the WRVO could raise the money necessary to complete and remodel the property.

Skip Hunter asked the board for a 120-day extension for the group at a meeting after the original 90 days had expired, but the board denied it. Port board minutes do not show further interest or input from the WRVO.

Wagers did not respond to requests for comment.

Hunter said she worked with the WRVO and a group called the Green Building Work Group to craft a plan including three options. She said the group had recommended the third option in which the building would be used for multiple purposes and services and centered around an area for the performing arts, like the Kerr Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

There is no record of the board ever considering the plan, and Hunter said her group soured on the idea of working with the port after confusion arose about roughly $300,000 that would have had to be paid in addition to the work needed to complete the building for tenants.

The plan submitted by the WRVO was “not realistic or executable in a timely manner,” according to Ted Fitzgerald, who was port manager at the time. “I offered to demolish it at my own expense,” he said, “and the offer still stands.”

A committee was created by the port commission to consider options for the building, according to Fitzgerald.

“I participated, along with interested members of the community,” he said. “The recommendation of the committee was to tear down the building, but the recommendation was never brought to the commission. Go figure.”

He claimed scared politicians lacked the will to do the right thing and predicts the building will stand until it collapses.

Reports in 2015 estimated the cost to finish construction and complete site improvements with the added $300,000 had risen to $1.5 million.

In a board meeting Nov. 20, Range said the port could give the building away if a plan developed to finish and use the building that also paid the port roughly $2,000 a month in rent for the land. He noted the port still owes between $307,000 and $330,000 and pays $2,000 a month to the IFA.

During that meeting, the board approved a motion to advertise for third-party proposals to complete construction and develop the building while leasing the land from the port.

Commissioner Richard Heap added a drop-dead-date to the motion requiring that any plan be accepted and acted on within 12 months. Should no viable proposals be submitted or a plan fail to show adequate progress after 12 months, the port would move to demolish the building.

An advertisement asking for proposals is being reviewed by the port’s lawyer, according to Dehlinger, and should appear in Saturday’s paper.

The nearly 2.5 acres under and around the building could be used for RV and large-boat storage, according to Range, and earn 50 cents a square foot, if the building was demolished.

Range said he is unaware of any commercial interest in the building recently, but added no one has been in the proper position to explain what needed to be done. That is the value of the process we are entering now, he said, emphasizing that the proper information is in order.

“And now this is basically a free building,” Range said, “but it’s under a lease and so we also have to lease the land.”

Fitzgerald recommended tearing the building down in 2012, saying the port was financially unable to complete the building.

“We’ve got a big liability costing us money and we’re not able to use it at all,” he said. “If some plan doesn’t resolve itself in the near future, I think we need to look at our options.”

He said the building was no longer an asset, but there are no indications in other documents explaining why the building remains standing, especially since Range has echoed Fitzgerald’s conclusion from 2012.

“The building has no value as it is,” Range said.

Reach Boyd C. Allen at ballen@currypilot.com .

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