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March 23, 2023

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Georgia-Pacific to raze 11 unused buildings near downtown Camas

No plans have been offered for the 100K-square-foot site

By , Columbian county government and small cities reporter
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Buildings just north of the main Camas paper mill site sit vacant on Jan. 7.
Buildings just north of the main Camas paper mill site sit vacant on Jan. 7. (Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Georgia-Pacific is planning to demolish 11 buildings no longer in use near the entrance to downtown Camas by early next year.

The planned demolitions cover the Camas Business Center, a development lab and nonwovens manufacturing plant — roughly 100,000 square feet worth of structures. The buildings are located around 1101 N.W. Ash St. and 349 N.W. Seventh Ave., just north of the main Camas paper mill site.

G-P didn’t offer details about any future plans for the site. Demolitions are necessary to avoid maintenance issues with the unused structures, which have electrical tie-ins to the main mill site, G-P spokeswoman Kristi Ward said.

“We have no future plans to build anything on the property and we will make a decision about the best use of the property after the demolition project has been completed,” Ward said.

Once one of Clark County’s largest employers, the mill’s operations have steadily decreased for two decades, leaving a large swath of underused land adjoining downtown Camas on the north and west.

Nine of the buildings to be demolished were built between 1929 and 1970, according to G-P’s demolition plan. They include a two-story, 31,360-square-foot development lab; a four-story, 31,000-square-foot nonwovens manufacturing building; a three-story, 11,000-square-foot office building; a two-story water treatment building; two warehouses; a 3,500-square-foot library; and a one-story microscopy laboratory.

The city of Camas determined last month that the plans meet the state’s Environmental Policy Act rules and will not have any significant adverse environmental impacts.

According to G-P’s proposal, the demolitions should take between six and seven months, concluding in the first months of 2022.

The future of the mill site and surrounding areas near downtown Camas have been part of a yearslong debate about how to best manage growth in Clark County’s second-largest city.

The mill, founded in 1883, once represented a sizeable majority of Camas’ property tax base. It became a defining element of the city, inspiring Camas High School’s “Papermakers” mascot.

But in recent decades, the city has diversified its economy, attracting high-tech industries and annexing surrounding areas.

In 2017, G-P — a subsidiary of Koch Industries — announced a major restructuring that included 300 layoffs. The company shuttered the “Roaring 20” office paper line and pulp operations.

Amid questions about the future of the mill, the city has at times discussed taking possession of the Camas Business Center. City officials have already negotiated the takeover of 190 acres formerly owned by G-P, including the Mill Ditch and Lacamas Creek dams that create Lacamas and Round lakes.

Mill representatives in 2019 told the city that they had no plans to close the existing paper line, which makes paper towels, ending questions about possible development at the main mill site. In February 2020, G-P told its 150 Camas employees that it was investing $15 million in capital improvements, signaling that the company plans to continue operations at the mill for the foreseeable future.

Columbian county government and small cities reporter