Port of Vancouver poised to buy crucial property

$17M purchase of up to 95 acres will aid westward growth

By Aaron Corvin, Columbian Port & Economy Reporter



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The Port of Vancouver will decide this morning whether to acquire 95 acres as part of a larger effort to open hundreds of acres on its west side to new rails and roads aimed at attracting future industrial tenants and cargo shippers.

The port’s three commissioners are slated to vote on the matter during their regular public hearing at 9:30 a.m. at the port’s office, 3103 N.W. Lower River Road, Vancouver. Port administrators are recommending commissioners approve an agreement to spend $17 million to buy four parcels totaling 95 acres from Moorage 5 Properties Inc. and Hickey Family Co.

The 95 acres surround the port’s 40-acre Terminal 5 West. If the deal goes through, the port would combine that parcel with Terminal 5 West for as much as 135 acres.

But it’s the location of the 95 acres that matters most.

The heavy-industrial land is sandwiched between two other port-owned parcels: Terminal 5 and Columbia Gateway. The 95 acres would connect Terminal 5 — where the port maintains major rail facilities and where it wants to land part of an oil-handling operation and a potash export facility — to the 534-acre Gateway property.

As a result, the port would be able to carry out longtime plans to extend its industrial and marine facilities westward.

“This will allow the port to extend the port’s rail and road access infrastructure into Columbia Gateway for future marine customers, industrial tenants and development of a new marine terminal,” according to port administrators in their recommendation to commissioners.

The purchase deal is complicated, involving about 20 acres of wetlands and leases held by two companies. The final acreage and price could change.

The port anticipates the purchase agreement will wrap up by Feb. 28, 2014.

‘Future growth’

The port’s move today to get hold of the 95-acre tract follows a letter of intent it inked in April with Moorage 5 Properties and Hickey Family Co., which the port describes as “two business entities of the Hickey Family.”

The port says it’s been working with the Hickey Family for the past two years to bring the property under its ownership.

About 26 acres of the 95-acre plot are under lease to Tidewater Barge Lines and HME Construction. Another 20 acres are wetlands.

As part of the HME lease, the company has first right of refusal to purchase its estimated seven-acre lease premises from Hickey Family, according to the port. And HME plans to exercise that right. As a result, the acreage and price of the HME property would be deducted from the port’s total acreage and price when the deal closes.

However, if the HME transaction “fails to close for any reason, the port will proceed with purchasing the full 95 acres and both the HME and Tidewater leases will be assigned to the port at closing,” port administrators say in their recommendation to commissioners.

Meanwhile, the port will conduct an environmental study, including a wetlands assessment, to examine how suitable the property is for the port’s intended use.

Theresa Wagner, the port’s communications manager, said in an email to The Columbian that the final acreage and price won’t be known until after the port moves through its due diligence phase, which will be completed by Feb. 14.

The cost of acquiring the parcel is included in the port’s 2014 budget. Wagner said the port could use net income, tap its credit line or issue a revenue bond to finance the purchase of the property.

She said locking it up “provides the potential for additional marine facilities and the ability to provide rail access to Columbia Gateway,” where roughly 490 acres would be open for future economic development.

The additional 490 acres “will help support future growth and the need for jobs to support our growing population,” Wagner said.

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