Neighbors Question Secretive Acquisition of New $15.5 Million Portland Drug Treatment Center

Officials released new details about the 70-bed facility at a county board meeting yesterday.

Lolo Pass (Aaron Lee)

Early this week, city, county and state officials all refused to answer a simple question: What was the address of the building on which they planned to jointly spend over $15 million to turn it into a new residential drug treatment center?

It was, as WW reported, the chic Lolo Pass hotel and hostel, which, despite the sale, still had guests booked out months in advance. As those guests scrambled to make new plans, officials scrambled to explain the secrecy.

A subsequent press release from Gov. Tina Kotek’s office on Jan. 3 said that “the location of the building is confidential per a nondisclosure agreement until the sale is final.”

And at a meeting of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners yesterday, Mary-Rain O’Meara of Central City Concern, which purchased the building with funding assistance from state and local governments, explained it “had to move quickly” because the sale had been an auction. (It remains unclear why Lolo Pass was up for auction at all.)

“This is an usual transaction,” she added. “It presented an opportunity to move swiftly on a real estate asset that we are able to acquire below market value due to the nature of the transaction.”

During that meeting, the county laid out the details. The purchase price was $15.5 million. An additional $1.75 million will be spent renovating the space—converting some rooms into offices and redesigning the reception area. It’s “a nearly turnkey facility,” County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson explained. The building was just built, in 2021, and has a commercial kitchen and laundry.

The purchase will close by the middle of February, and CCC plans to open the facility in November. It will operate at full capacity by early next year.

It will treat around 200 people per year, giving “priority for people with highly acute and complex needs,” according to a county presentation at yesterday’s meeting. The building will not be locked, but it will be staffed 24/7.

The speed of the transaction left many bewildered. Susan Lindsay, co-chair of the Buckman Community Association, said at the meeting she was concerned that neighbors hadn’t been notified. “We want to know about the program, we want to be involved, we want to be supportive,” she said.

“I as well support the intention behind this project,” said another neighbor, Alex Bove. But, he added, the deal felt rushed. “There’s something fishy here that does not pass the smell test.”

Even some members of the county board appeared to be taken by surprise. “I think many of us board members did not know,” admitted Commissioner Lori Stegmann.

Officials offered reassurances. “We are committed, once the sale is final, to immediately reaching out to the neighborhood association and other community stakeholders and engaging with those conversations,” said Central City Concern’s O’Meara.

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