Oregon School for the Blind is Going on the Market

Western Oregon University is interested along with Salem Hospital, Willamette University and a private development company with family money in Portland.


February 18, 2010 – By early May, 8.33 acres of prime real estate in Salem should be on the market, according to state officials.
The property, which formerly housed the Oregon School for the Blind, will be sold “as is,” and should command at least $5.47 million, according to an independent appraisal, said Scott Young, deputy administrator of facilities for the Department of Administrative Services.
At least four potential buyers have expressed an interest  – Western Oregon University, in collaboration with Salem Hospital, would like to build a nursing school on the site; Salem Hospital is interested in owning the site outright since it abuts their property; Willamette University intends to make an offer, and there’s a private development company with family money in Portland that would love to scoop up this prime real estate.
Ultimately the decision rests in the hands of Scott Harra, administrator of the Department of Administrative Services, who’s been given the authority to choose the buyer.
Typically state agencies are given first priority when state-owned property is sold, which would have given Western Oregon University front-row status. However, DAS can bypass that process following passage of House Bill 2834 last session.   
“We’re going out to the public for the highest value, and don’t have that requirement,” said Young, whose agency plans to sign a contract with a broker within the next month to facilitate the sale.
Originally revenue generated from the sale was headed toward the Education Stability Fund, which funds Oregon’s public school system (K-12).
But legislation moving through the special session (House Bill 3687) would allocate 50 percent of the sale proceeds to blind students enrolled in Oregon’s public schools, while the Oregon School for the Deaf receives the remaining 50 percent. That bill, which has been approved by the House, awaits Senate approval, and doesn’t appear to have strong opposition.  
Before being sold, DAS had recommended the property be brown fielded -- the 11 buildings on the site demolished, and the land cleared. Although that would have generated a higher purchase price -- $7.7 million -- the state would have had to spend $2.1 million to ready the land
“This is prime property,” said Sen. Jackie Winters (R-Salem), who sits on the Joint Ways and Means Committee which decided on Feb, 17 to sell the property outright. “It’s not industrial property. There’ll be a huge bidding war. Buyers are just lining up now. Let the bidding war began. Let’s not spend any additional money to get the property ready. Those costs should be borne by the purchaser.”
That recommendation was made by Laurie Byerly, legislative fiscal officer, who urged legislators to sell the property “as is.”  
Potential buyers told DAS officials they’d prefer the site be “shovel ready” because it would garner a higher sales price and have more development appeal. If the property doesn’t command a high enough value, DAS can reject the bids, raze the property and increase the sale price, Young said.
The question is whether buyers “will pay a good fair market value with the old buildings in place,” he added. DAS was also given a $900,000 appropriation when it took over the site. That money is being used for maintenance to protect the site from degradation. 
“We ought to try and take the bids and sell the property immediately,” said Rep. Dennis Richardson (Rep. Central Point). “But if we don’t like the bids, then we can change.”
The Oregon School for the Blind had been operating at that site since 1884 until it closed last July. House Education Chairwoman Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis), an advocate for disabled students, led the effort to close the school.


To read the detailed reports about the potential sale of the Oregon School for the Blind which were given to the Joint Ways and Means Committee, click here (47-page pdf).


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