Seaport land deal officially closes

The Weyerhaeuser Co. officially donated its mothballed waterfront sawmill property to the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport today, a deal that has been in the works for months, but officially closed today.

“It’s Good Friday for most people today, but for me, it’s an excellent Friday,” said Seaport Executive Director Les Bolton.

The property is slated to become the future home for a museum and a place to dock the Lady Washington and its fellow sailing vessel, the Hawaiian Chieftain.

On Monday, Bolton said the Seaport will put out a request for qualifications seeking a consultant to help the Seaport Authority craft a master plan for the Weyerhaeuser property and assess the next steps that should be taken.

A ribbon cutting is planned for July 3, when The Lady Washington will be back in town and officially put in at the old Weyerhaeuser dock.

“We want to try to make the area as safe for the public between now and the date of the ribbon cutting,” Bolton said.

In December, Weyerhaeuser worked with the Seaport to do a boundary line adjustment on its property breaking up the property so that just the 24 acres could be donated to the Seaport, instead of the entire site, which included the adjoining log sorting yard. The project also includes 14 acres of waterfront property that is being leased from the state Department of Natural Resources, bringing the total size of the site to 38 acres.

The donation is valued at $2.34 million, according to an independent appraisal done by McKee & Schalka of Seattle. The site consists of the pier, dock, buildings and infrastructure, located across from the Rotary Log Pavilion.

During a meeting earlier this month where the Seaport Authority authorized final negotiations to happen, Seaport Authority member Linda Orgel pointed out that they would also acquire $680,000 worth of equipment on site, in addition to the property.

Weyerhaeuser will retain ownership of approximately 200 acres near the donated site, which includes the former Bay City Log Export Yard. The company is still evaluating options for that property, according to a press release from the Seaport.

“Today’s announcement allows for the former sawmill property to be put back into productive use and will help the Seaport meet its long-term vision of creating a world-class public waterfront facility,” Anthony Chavez, government and community relations manager for Weyerhaeuser, said in a press release. “We congratulate the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority and wish them well with this new venture.”

There are some risks involved in the deal. The Seaport Authority had to put up The Lady Washington as collateral to pay off a bank loan still owed on the Hawaiian Chieftain.

Plus, the Seaport had to put up its existing property at Junction City as collateral to Weyerhaeuser as incentive since the company will sub-lease its existing state Department of Natural Resources lease to the Seaport. That collateral will go away after the lease expires in 2015, when the Seaport will have to lease directly with the state for the property.

The Seaport also took out an $80,000 loan to cover the closing costs of the deal with Weyerhaeuser and other assorted expenses, which will need to be paid back.