ORI Delays Downtown Building

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), November 2, 2004 | Go to article overview
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ORI Delays Downtown Building

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

A financial setback has delayed Oregon Research Institute's much-anticipated downtown Eugene redevelopment project.

But officials insist that the firm remains committed to putting up a six-story office building across the street from the Eugene Public Library - although now they're not sure when that will happen.

In a decision that stunned ORI officials, the behavioral research firm late this summer failed to win a $4 million federal grant that would have helped it construct a $20 million building on the site of the former Sears building, at West 10th Avenue and Charnelton Street.

That has sent ORI executives scrambling for other money, causing a delay in the proposed sale of the city-owned former Sears building.

The city was supposed to sell the property to ORI for $400,000 - that's $230,000 less than its appraised value - by no later than Nov. 1.

Crews were to start demolishing the building this fall, with the new structure to take about 18 months to complete.

That schedule has been pushed back, and officials can't say for certain when the sale will take place or when construction will start.

ORI hopes to get $20 million to $24 million in loans from a subsidiary of a Denver-based bank, ORI Fiscal Manager Leila Snow said. However, it may take a few months or more for final approval, she said.

"We want to wrap this up," Snow said. "But they are the ones with the money and they will determine the pace."

Under the tentative deal with ORI, the city agreed to demolish the former Sears structure at an estimated cost of about $227,000, plus give ORI a price break on daily rent for about 200 parking spaces in the city-owned Broadway Place garages, a discount worth about $150,000 over five years.

Figuring the below-market-value of the building sales price, and the other financial assistance, the city's subsidy would equal about $608,000.

In spite of the uncertainty, city officials said the project is not in jeopardy.

"Our commitment to them remains in place," said Mike Sullivan, community development manager. "They give us every indication that they intend to proceed."

If ORI succeeds in getting new funding, the tentative sale date between the city and ORI will be changed to reflect a new schedule, he said.

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