Multnomah Co. inks $10M tentative deal to sell Wapato

Developer won't confirm whether data center is envisioned

A sign outside Wapato Jail seen on September 7, 2016. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (Portland Tribune) — Multnomah Chair Deborah Kafoury has issued a memorandum of understanding to sell the long-vacant Wapato jail for $10 million to a California development company.

The deal isn’t final and the company will have 90 days to research the site and negotiate a final deal for approval by the board of county commissioners.

While the county had earlier demanded to know how the property would be used, the local broker for the firm, Philip Zimmermann, told the Portland Tribune that information remains a secret.

“I told them no low level atomic testing and no jail,” Zimmermann said, adding that the company won’t allow the reuse of the building for a detention center or similar operation. “That seemed to be their big worry, the jail.”

The Portland Tribune is a media partner with KOIN 6 News

Earlier, a source close to the deal told the Portland Tribune the company had been contemplating a data center. But Zimmermann said he couldn’t say.

“Sorry I can’t be more forthcoming but you’ll see when the time comes why that was,” he added. “It’s goin to be a big one.”

A county spokeswoman did not respond to queries about how the property will be used.

But if the deal goes through, it will eliminate an embarrassing poltical headache for county officials.

Multnomah County Facilities Manager Mark Gustafson moves a serving cart in the large unused kitchen at the never-opened Wapato Corrections Facility. Some cooking equipment has been removed over the years. (Jonathan House, Portland Tribune)
Multnomah County Facilities Manager Mark Gustafson moves a serving cart in the large unused kitchen at the never-opened Wapato Corrections Facility. Some cooking equipment has been removed over the years. (Jonathan House, Portland Tribune)

The 525-bed facility was built in 2003 for $58 million. But it was never opened because the jail population began declining after its construction, and the county did not have readily available operating funds for it.

But even without opening the jail, the County pays $300,000 or more each year to maintain it.

The company that has a tentative deal with the county is called Pacific Development Partners LLC of Santa Monica,

The real estate company’s website says that since its founding in 1985 it has developed, redeveloped or owned more than $1 billion in retail, office and industrial projects, such as a regional office for 24 Hour Fitness in Carlsbad, California.

While county officials have long sought to find a taker for the costly building, they had requested more information about how it would be developed.

A recent appraisal said Wapato’s value as an industrial building is $8.5 million.

By the time the bonds used to build it are paid off, the total costs of the facility could exceed $105 million, including interest and maintenance, according to a Portland Tribune analysis.

The Wapato Jail remains empty, June 3, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
The Wapato Jail, June 3, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)