The city of Oak Harbor has purchased two waterfront properties on the corner of Pioneer Way and Bayshore Drive and has hired an economic development coordinator who will lead the project.
Hiring an economic development coordinator was among a list of 32 priorities city council voted on last October, as was buying the two properties for economic development purposes.
The council voted unanimously to approve a purchase and sale agreement of 1081 and 1091 SE Pioneer Way in September. The parcels are located next to four other undeveloped properties, together making up the large empty field next to Alfy’s Pizza. The properties in question are smaller parcels on the east end of the field and are 60,248 square feet in size. There are currently two empty buildings located on them.
During a September city council meeting, City Administrator Blaine Oborn said the two properties were originally listed at $1.2 million but had since dropped to $699,000, most likely due to environmental issues.
According to the Island County Assessor website, 1091 SE Pioneer Way sold for $400,000. Information on 1081 SE Pioneer Way could not be found on the assessor website. The city purchased the properties from Concorde Properties, Inc. – a business based in Oak Harbor that, oddly, dissolved on Jan. 5, 2022 – via Pacific Crest Realty Advisors, LLC, which is based in Bellevue.
Oborn previously said the empty lot is already being used for festivals and he presented a list of other possible long-term uses for the land, including expansion of the marina, a hotel or convention center, a food truck court and an RV park and dump station.
“The city negotiated a reduced rate for the purchase in consideration of the investment needed to address environmental contamination,” Mayor Bob Severns said in a council meeting Tuesday. “Currently the city plans to leverage grant funds to pay for remediating the sites.”
Public Works Director Steve Schuller said the city is currently working with the Washington State Department of Ecology and “will have more information as the project progresses.”
Currently, it is unclear what the city plans to do with the properties, but it seems it will be up to the new economic development coordinator Stephen McCaslin.
McCaslin started in the position Jan. 3. He is a retired naval flight officer and has over 40 years of experience in senior-level business leadership and consulting, with over 20 years of experience developing and growing businesses. His last role was with the Economic Development Council for Island County conducting economic and demographic research and reporting.
Under the direction of Severns and Oborn, McCaslin said he will plan, organize, and complete economic development efforts that focus on retaining and recruiting new businesses to Oak Harbor.
“The intended outcomes will be to have a more economically vibrant city, and to raise the standard of living for our residents,” McCaslin wrote in an email.
McCaslin is currently focused on assessing what Oak Harbor offers to businesses, how to retain local businesses, identify the types of businesses the city wants to recruit, and to understand what may be limiting the city.
As far as the Pioneer Way properties go, McCaslin said city first has to clean up the properties to make them usable. He will provide the community with updates as they become available.
After McCaslin’s assessment of the city, he will create an economic strategic development plan, which he said will require input from residents and local businesses.