By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Local debate drawn to downtown hotels

Full disclosure: The writer has a financial interest in this subject. Our family and newspaper company own two of three Third Street buildings that developers propose to buy, tear down, and replace with a 92-room hotel, restaurants and retail space, with 68 below-ground parking spaces.

Some consider it abhorrent to demolish any historic building; others recognize that time and government building regulations can render old building renovation financially unfeasible. For example, developers estimate costs of nearly $13 million to bring those three buildings to hospitality-use code, resulting in annual operating losses exceeding $100,000.

Multi-level public hearings will produce both support and passionate testimony in opposition to the developer’s proposal. This in an invitation for people to access some background information to sprinkle into resulting conversations.

A story and images in today’s newspaper sets the scene for public focus. Interested people can take a deep dive into the history, engineering analysis, development plans, public testimony and much more via this link to the city’s website page: “bit.ly/3DH3wtG.”

After this project was proposed, the city began design work on its Third Street Improvement Project, and different developers launched planning for another downtown hotel one block to the west. That project reportedly would involve about 65 hotel rooms and renovation of a 300-seat theater, without added off-street parking.

This controversy will draw long-overdue public focus on the future of our downtown.

Some impetus for these projects comes from the city’s wide-ranging MAC-Town 2032 Economic Development Strategic Plan, adopted in March 2019 and providing developers with seeds of an evolving McMinnville and its future interests.

One of eight primary goals identified in MAC-Town 2032 is, “Be a leader in Hospitality and Place-Based Tourism.” Here are two related sub-goals:

“Make downtown the best it can be … Evaluate current zoning, historical districts and designations, including underutilized parcels, to ensure that key downtown parcels offer the highest and best use for their location.”

“Become the preferred destination for wine-related tourism … Connect hoteliers and other hospitality professionals in Oregon and elsewhere to local opportunities for high-quality additions to McMinnville’s current hospitality offerings.”

Engineering analysis and cost estimates confirmed that we could never bring our two buildings up to code. After years of failed efforts to sell, we signed a purchase agreement that is pending the outcome of public action on the development plans and a related 1985 gasoline spill.

For anyone interested in a more detailed history of it all, just ask via the email address below.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

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