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Observer 11/24/14

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Home arrow Opinion arrow Our View arrow COOK DEVELOPMENT LOOKS GOOD FOR LA GRANDE

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COOK DEVELOPMENT LOOKS GOOD FOR LA GRANDE

The La Grande City Council should commit to using Cook Development for rebuilding the Bohnenkamp property downtown. Why Cook? All you have to do is look at the $7 million project the company was responsible for in

The Dalles.

THE COMMODORE building, which sits in a highly visible part of downtown The Dalles, was completed recently. The building was an eyesore that had sat idle while community leaders looked at ways to improve the site that hadn't been used in almost a decade.

La Grande' s downtown has faced the onslaught of businesses moving out of the core area for higher traffic locations along Island Avenue, similar to what occurred in downtown The Dalles. La Grande was slower in creating an urban renewal district than the Columbia Gorge community, but both communities faced similar problems as their downtown cores deteriorated.

After wrangling over who would be best to redevelop the Commodore building, a four-story multi-use building, the City of The Dalles awarded the bid to Cook Development, which sold tax credits to generate the millions needed to complete the project. After two years, the Commodore was completed with retail, office and 24 fixed-income rental units available to the public.

At the open house for the remodeled building, more than 2,000 local residents showed up to look at the completed project. More than 100 applications were picked up by interested parties for the 24 rental units.

NOT ONLY WERE the city and urban renewal district involved, but the Oregon Department of Housing and Community Services helped facilitate the project. Cook was praised by Robert Repine, the housing agency's director and a retired home builder, for boosting the local economy by using dozens of local subcontractors on the project, turning $7 million into between $40 million and $49 million depending on the multiplying effect used.

Cook's commitment to creating a good working relationship with everyone involved and the quality of the end project are important considerations in redeveloping the burned-out Bohnenkamp site. Also the company's desire to create mixed uses should not be overlooked.

None of this is to say no one else could do a good job on the property, but considering the obstacles to be faced and the previous mistakes made that have cost the community at least a year or more in the Bohnenkamp property renewal, Cook Development appears to be standing ready to accomplish everything in an appropriate timeline to provide a quality, multi-use building in downtown La Grande.

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