McMinnville Economic Development Partnership photo##Former Evergreen International Aviation campus in McMinnville.
McMinnville Economic Development Partnership photo##Former Evergreen International Aviation campus in McMinnville.

Christensen and Richards: Five Years Later - Poised for greatness or opportunity wasted?

Past and present, as analyzed by Jody Christensen:

On Dec. 31, 2013, Evergreen International Aviation and several of its subsidiaries filed for dissolution under Chapter 7.

Within a few short weeks, I sat in a meeting with the trustee assigned to address a lengthy list of creditors. I asked him point-blank, “How long would the Evergreen buildings sit empty?” He said, “Could be seven years.”

My heart sank. Seven years! With closed eyes, I imagined the gateway to our community as a ghost town, marred by overgrown weeds and buildings in disrepair.

Guest Writer

Jody Christensen, known for her passion and enthusiasm, moved to McMinnville with husband Rick Smithrud in 1998. A Lewis & Clark grad with background in sales, marketing and hospitality, she was named executive director of the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership upon its founding in 2006. She is the proud mom of Christian, Lexie and Soren. She and her husband enjoy unearthing estate sale treasures and searching for the best craft beer and burgers.

Several community leaders have called, texted or e-mailed me to say: “What are we going to do to get those buildings sold? My business is directly affected by the loss of employees buying services. You need to ask the governor for help.” I even had someone break down in tears in my office.

I was invited to private meetings to picture what the future might hold and how we might expedite the process. I called in favor after favor in search of professional expertise.

What I didn’t know then, but I do know now, is although the course was not going to take years., it would prove a true test of our patience and tenacity.
By early 2014, the buildings on Evergreen’s Highway 18 campus were on the market. Over the next two years, the McMinnville Economic Development Partnership hosted more than 500 meetings and 250 site tours, fielded thousands of e-mails, and spent hundreds of hours collecting data and producing marketing materials and other documents.

By 2016, all but one building had come under new ownership. Since then, one building has been resold and one new one built — a $7 million winery.
What’s more, an aviation company is currently in its final due diligence on the remaining building. We expect an announcement shortly.

In addition, one 28,000 square foot building has recently become available for lease, following an extensive remodel.

Del Smith was an unabashed entrepreneur who forged the company with pure grit. And it was bold in its approach.

But Evergreen is no more, so we need to turn the page and begin the next chapter.

It’s time to call this campus something new, as it is no longer home to Evergreen International Aviation. Welcome to McMinnville’s new Business District on Three Mile Lane.

The campus buildings are under new private ownership by a diverse portfolio of businesses. They range from TTR, an employee-focused tax transaction software company, to Jackson Family Wines, an international wine industry leader that has established its Oregon headquarters adjacent to a new state-of-the-art wine production facility.

That has generated a renewed sense of opportunity for private investment on Highway 18, both at McMinnville Municipal Airport and on the surrounding 1,300 acres.

In May 2018, McMinnville received one of 86 opportunity zone designations granted in Oregon. The aim of the federal program is to encourage new development by incentivizing private investment.

Our zone includes the Highway 18 corridor from the airport on into the city, and extends on Lafayette Avenue to encompass the McMinnville Industrial District and lands beyond. Even though the final criteria have yet to be announced, several developers and investors have been asking questions about what kind of projects might be on the horizon in McMinnville.

McMinnville needs to leverage the recent investment and growing interest in our community with bold and innovative planning, with a particular focus on the emerging McMinnville Business District and Highway 18-Three Mile Lane corridor.


What lies ahead, as envisioned by Heather Richards:

McMinnville’s Three Mile Lane is poised for a great future. But it’s up to us, as a community, to decide what shape it should take.

The corridor was partially built out, with a very distinctive design aesthetic, by Del Smith when he developed the Evergreen International Aviation complex on one side and Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum and Wings & Waves Waterpark on the other. It has also come to host the McMinnville Municipal Airport, Chemeketa Community College and Willamette Valley Medical Center, along with motels, medical offices and a theater.

Guest Writer

Heather Richards moved to McMinnville in August 2016 to replace the retiring Doug Montgomery as the city’s planning director. She spent the previous 10 years as community development director in Redmond, Oregon. Earlier, she served as project development coordinator in Nampa, Idaho. She makes her home in McMinnville with son Sam and daughter Hadleigh, who attend local schools.

But it remains an area of transition and opportunity, as it also features large tracts of vacant land fronting a state highway with more through traffic than any other in the city. Some tracts visible from the highway have been vacant more than 30 years, despite being situated in a city with a constrained supply of buildable land.

In addition, space in prominent office buildings on the former Evergreen business complex remains vacant. And for many travelers, the vacant land and buildings mar the only glimpse of McMinnville they will have as they travel to and from the coast.

But there is also reason to celebrate.

The past five years have witnessed investment by new interests such as TTR and Jackson Family Wines — companies willing to invest in their employees and our community. And that provides a foundation on which to build, provided we are able to maintain the momentum.

We stand at a precipice. The corridor is poised to become either something great for McMinnville or an opportunity lost forever.

Funded by a $200,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s growth management program, the city plans to launch a Three Mile Lane Plan Study in November. It will answer the question: What is the best use for the land alongside Highway 18 over the next 50 years?

A Project Advisory Committee composed of business leaders, property owners and community stakeholders will work with the city staff and other partners to discuss the opportunities, constraints and needs. Discussion will focus on economic development, tourism, the gateway impression, housing opportunities, city center connectivity, transportation needs and the long-range plans of the hospital, college and airport.

The corridor is home to many large property owners willing and able to make significant new investments while ensuring these investments align with the long-term needs and desires of the community. Without a formal plan to serve as a guide, the community could lose the opportunity to partner with these owners, resulting in lost infrastructure investment and lack of diverse transportation choices.

The aim is to develop a plan for approximately 1,340 acres fronting Highway 18 and crossing the Three Mile Lane Bridge into the city center.

A Three Mile Lane Overlay District was created by the city in 1981 and amended in 1994. The time is now ripe for a discussion about what’s working and what isn’t.  

Our community has never shied away from investing energy in tackling large projects. Thoughtful, visionary planning has led to public and private investment, making McMinnville a truly unique place.

We are now being called to establish the course for the next phase of our community’s growth and we are excited to see what the future holds. Through a comprehensive public process, the city hopes to develop a plan of enduring value for future generations.



We need a major grocery store and a gas station at that end of town.


OR a Costco?? That would cover groceries and gas all in one.


Sorry about that...don't know what happened but it repeated my COSTCO comment multiple times. Not intended. Please delete extra ones of possible. Thanks.


How about a Fred Meyer or Target. Both great companies!!!


City planners establish land use categories through planning and zoning. However, they have no power to dictate particular uses by particular providers.
Zoning a parcel "commercial" limits it to some kind of commercial use.
It could be a grocery, gas station, shoe store, book store, coffee shop or cafe. The free market dictates that.
The city considers applications. It doesn't extend invitations.


*Funded by a $200,000 grant from the Oregon Department of Transportation’s growth management program, the city plans to launch a Three Mile Lane Plan Study in November. It will answer the question: What is the best use for the land alongside Highway 18 over the next 50 years?*

That's a hell of a lot of money to answer one question. I hope they get it right.


I assume you are just joking, Joel. But in case anyone is confused, the goal is to develop a cohensive and comprehensive mix-use plan for hundreds of acres of land. That makes it a pretty complex question demanding a pretty complex answer, and perhaps more accurately, a set of pretty complex answers.
The price tag doesn't seem out of line to me.


We need a data center or high tech manufacturing like an Intel in this county! This would be a perfect location.

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