Location location location: Camas secures prime properties

City to buy office space downtown, historic home on Lacamas Lake

Camas City Council members have approved an agreement to purchase the former site of Bank of America (right) in downtown Camas, located just west of the current Camas City Hall (left) on Northeast Fourth Avenue, for $1.6 million. The building's current owners, Jerry and Marilyn Nies and Gina and Todd Stevenson, of 528 Dallas, LLC, purchased the property for $535,000 in March 2017. The city of Camas hopes to renovate the building and use it as city staff office space.

The city of Camas is quickly adding to its real estate collection with sales agreements to buy prominent properties downtown and along Lacamas Lake.

On Monday night, Camas City Council members approved an agreement to purchase the former “Bank of America building” in downtown Camas, located just west of Camas City Hall on Northeast Fourth Avenue, for $1.6 million.

That acquisition means city employees will soon have room to breathe.

“We’re bursting at the seams at City Hall and we are bringing on some additional employees next year,” Camas City Administrator Pete Capell told The Post-Record on Tuesday.

Capell said the nearly 9,000-square-foot building and 0.46-acre property’s proximity to City Hall interested city leaders.

“We had talked about leasing the space … but then we discovered they wanted to sell the property,” Capell said. “Another party was also very interested, so we offered a little over the appraised value to make sure we could get it.”

Spending $1.6 million “plus some money to renovate,” is “far cheaper than building a new city hall,” Capell added.

The building’s current owners, Jerry and Marilyn Nies and Gina and Todd Stevenson, who co-own 528 Dallas, LLC, purchased the property for $535,000 in March 2017.

Capell said the 528 Dallas, LLC group got a deal on the property, which was recently appraised at a little over $1.3 million, because “the Bank of America lease devalued the property quite a bit.”

Bank of America’s lease was set to expire in September 2019, but the bank closed hundreds of branches in 2018, including the one in downtown Camas.

That proved fortuitous for the property owners, who could then put the property on the market without the long-term bank lease tying up potential uses, Capell said.

“The asking price was $1.5 million. We got into a competition with someone else who was trying to acquire the property,” Capell said. “There’s no doubt we paid more than the appraised value, but we think the property has a long-term value.”

Camas should become the owner of the property at 528 N.E. Fourth Ave., by the end of 2018, and Capell said the city would do some space planning to figure out how the building might best serve city employees. He said Camas employees likely would move into the new building “sometime next year.”

The city is using $1 million from bonds and up to $1 million from the city’s real estate excise taxes (REET) to fund the property purchase and necessary renovations.

City has agreement to buy historic house, ‘Mills property’ along Lacamas Lake

Capell said the city had even more good news on the real estate front this week, after city leaders entered into an agreement to purchase the “Mills property” on the north shore of Lacamas Lake.

“This is part of our Legacy Lands program,” Capell said Tuesday. “The Mills family discounted the value of the property to $2.5 million.”

The Legacy Lands program includes a $4.8 million infusion from Clark County to help Camas preserve 100 acres of natural space within the Lacamas Lake North corridor. The conservation project will increase the 880-acre Lacamas Corridor park and greenway system by about 100 acres and protect the land from future development.

Eventually, the city will terminate Leadbetter Road near the Camas Washougal Wildlife League’s shooting range, where the road switches from Northeast Leadbetter to Southeast Leadbetter, and use the existing road as part of a trail system that will loop Lacamas Lake.

In January, Capell said the city of Camas already owned some of the property marked for conservation, including 48 acres Camas purchased from Georgia-Pacific in 2008, but was working to secure lands owned by private individuals, Clark County and the Camas Washougal Wildlife League — which is gifting property to the city in exchange for the cost of cleaning up land polluted by lead from the League’s shooting range.

On Tuesday, Capell said the city was making great headway on its Legacy property acquisitions.

“We could (soon) have that whole shoreline, from the shooting range to Camp Currie, all tied up,” Capell said. “There is just one more parcel to go.”

The $2.5 million purchase agreement for property owned by the Mills Family, LLC, includes the historic Pittock-Leadbetter House, a 2.5-story, 3,700-square-foot Queen Anne style home built in 1901 by Oregonian newspaper publisher Henry L. Pittock for his son and daughter-in-law. The property has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places and on the Washington Heritage Register since 1979.

Capell said the home is currently being used as a residence, but that the city could decide to someday use the house for special events.

“It would be an awesome place to have weddings and events,” Capell said of the historic home, which overlooks Lacamas Lake. “We wouldn’t try to make money off of it … but hope to generate enough revenue to keep it in excellent condition, so it could pay for itself and not be something the city has to subsidize.”

Capell said in January there is no firm timeline on when Camas residents might see that final Lacamas Lake trail system, but estimated it would take city leaders two to three years to finalize the land acquisitions and maybe another two years to actually build the trail system. Because the trail will cross wetlands and creeks, the city will need to get proper environmental permits and build sections of boardwalks and pedestrian bridges to have the trail entirely encircle Lacamas Lake.

The city’s parks and recreation department will manage and maintain the future Lacamas Lake North Corridor trail system and parks land. Eventually, city leaders hope to add amenities to the area such as picnic facilities, trailheads, water-access sites, viewpoints, fishing piers, children’s play areas and concessions for kayakers, canoers and bicyclists.

“Our biggest goal is to complete the trail around the lake, but we also want to just continue to be good stewards of the land and keep it the jewel that it is — forever,” Capell said.