- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 20, 2014

OREGON CITY, Ore. (AP) - A Tacoma developer has bought a defunct paper mill at Willamette Falls in Oregon City, on the site of historical significance in the state.

British fur trader John McLoughlin built a sawmill there in 1829, and a paper mill operated there for more than a century until 2011.

Then the Blue Heron mill went into bankruptcy proceedings, its executives saying they couldn’t compete with Chinese competition.

The mill site is 23 acres, covered with about 50 buildings, many immense and unsightly. It was on the market for more than three years. Three developers made offers and then backed out. A proposal for a city-county-Metro purchase fell apart.

The buyer who emerged was George Heidgerken, offering $2.2 million and a fast close, The Oregonian (http://bit.ly/1h5WpXE) reports.

It turned out he likes sites that have an industrial past, faded glory and a lot of potential,

He acquired old Abitibi paper mill in Steilacoom, Wash., last year and part of the former Olympia brewery in Tumwater in 2010.

He also bought a 330,000-square-foot Nalley Foods warehouse complex near Tacoma.

Like the Oregon City site, they are all in the planning stage.

Heidgerken acknowledges he jumped in the Oregon City deal knowing little about the site or what he would do with it, although he has notions such as a “very active” farmers’ market, perhaps a hotel, art galleries and architecture that showcases Willamette Falls.

“I look at this project as glass … glass and steel,” Heidgerken said.

Metro hopes to acquire an easement from Heidgerken and build a $30 million riverfront esplanade that would open Willamette Falls to the public.

City Manager David Frasher said Heidgerken’s vision for the site is in line with what the city and Metro want.

Heidgerken said he would raze some of the metal buildings that dominate the site, none that Oregon City has identified as historically significant. He said he’s aware of the place the Blue Heron site holds in Oregon history.

“Everybody has a point of view on your property. You don’t want to ignore them. You want to work with them. They’re part of the legacy,” he said. “It’s not about us as owners. It’s not about the city as planners. It’s about the legacy of this site.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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