LA GRANDE — An old gas station in La Grande next summer could be the site for boutique ice cream instead of oil changes and tire pressure checks.
The Texaco station on 1508 Adams Ave., which has been closed at least two years, is set to be reborn with help from the La Grande Urban Renewal Agency. The agency voted Wednesday, Sept. 2, to grant Gust and Karin Tsiatsos, who are purchasing the Texaco station property, $64,200 to help them convert it into a center that will feature boutique ice cream, coffee and mercantile shops and more.
The site, to be named The Local Station, is projected to cost $409,000.
“This will be a showcase for the east end of downtown,” said Christine Jarski, La Grande’s economic development director, to the URA’s governing board, which is the La Grande City Council.
The Tsiatsoses had intended to do a larger renovation that would have included a new hotel tower adjacent to the old gas station building.
That project would have cost $693,000 and the Tsiatsoses requested a $125,000 urban renewal grant in 2018 for it. The couple lessened the scope of the project after the economy declined due to the COVD-19 pandemic, Gust Tsiatsos said.
The agency in 2018 granted the Tsiatsoses $50,000 for this project. But this past August they told the URA they wanted to scale back the renovation while spending the $50,000.
The URA had the Tsiatsoses return the $50,000 and asked them to submit a new plan instead and apply for a new grant. The couple did, and Wednesday the agency examined the plan and awarded them the grant of $64,200.
Robert Strope, La Grande city manager and manger of the URA, said the agency will split the $50,000 the Tsiatsoses returned among the other four 2018 applicants who received URA funding.
The Tsiatsoses now are close to finalizing their purchase of the Texaco station from Father Hank Albrecht, the former pastor of Our Lady of the Valley Catholic Church in La Grande.
Albrecht, who lives in Hawaii, reopened the Texaco station about 13 years ago after restoring it.
Strope said he is optimistic about the quality of work the Tsiatsoses will do at the old Texaco station because of their development of the The Landing Hotel at 1501 Adams Ave. The Tsiatsoses dramatically renovated a run-down building in the process of creating The Landing, which also houses a restaurant.
Gust Tsiatsos said he hopes The Local Station is completed by early summer of 2021. In addition to its shops and courtyard, the place will feature meeting sites, including one enclosed in glass where the station’s gas pumps were.
“We want to create an experience for tourists and local residents in which they can do more than just buy a cup of coffee,” he said.
Tsiatsos said he also hopes to establish a connection between Eastern Oregon University and The Local Station. He said EOU will be invited to have some class sessions and activities there.
The La Grande businessman is encouraged by the $64,200 grant the URA approved and the supportive attitude its members have.
“We think this will be a great addition,” Tsiatsos said, “and we are glad the URA does too.”