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City gets option to buy 2 Broadway buildings.

Byline: Edward Russo The Register-Guard

CORRECTION (ran May 17, 2007): Based on the size of the lots under Eugene landlord Betty Snowden's two West Broadway buildings, her $2.2 million asking price equals about $375 a square foot, or $150 a foot more than next-most-expensive parcel of land under option with the city. Also, the comparable per square foot asking price for the lots under the Scan Design building on Willamette Street is $165. Incorrect figures were used in a Wednesday article on Page F1.

For months, Betty Snowden resisted the idea of selling her property on West Broadway in downtown Eugene.

But now, fed up with street youths loitering in front of her property, Snowden has agreed to sell her two small buildings for the lofty price of $2.2 million.

The real estate could become part of a downtown redevelopment project.

Snowden, a real estate broker and local television personality, has signed an option with the city that commits her to sell her two buildings at Broadway and Olive Street for that price until March 2009.

The City Council on Monday picked two Portland firms - Beam Development and KWG Development Partners - to work together as possible builders on West Broadway.

With the Snowden option, the city now has secured the right to buy 10 properties on and around West Broadway, between Willamette and Charnelton streets, for a total of $17.9 million.

Based on the size of the property under her two buildings, Snowden's $2.2 million asking price equals $388 per square foot of the roughly 6,000-square-foot lot.

That would be far more expensive than any of the other optioned Broadway properties.

One of Snowden's buildings houses Jameson's tavern - formerly Cafe Paradiso - on the northwest corner of Broadway and Olive. The adjoining building houses Snowden's Glamour Girls and Guys - a wig and hair care shop - and her real estate office.

Snowden said she struggled with the decision to sell for more than a year, ever since representatives of Broadway landlords Tom Connor and Don Woolley and their development firm approached her about selling her property for their proposed housing and commercial project.

"Part of the problem was that it was just hard to let go," she said. "But I have come to the conclusion that it's time for a new vision for downtown."

Snowden, the behatted star of the local variety and talk show "Hats Off," said she hopes her properties become part of the redevelopment that leads to retail renaissance on Broad- way.

After owning property on Broadway for 14 years, Snowden said she realizes the street youths who panhandle, sell drugs, and cause disturbances in front of her properties won't go away until the area is transformed by new development.

"You have kids that will curse at customers," she said. "They greet customers rudely. They will threaten your life. You have drug activity and prostitution going on. You have gang activity going on. Some people say it's not that bad, 'they are just kids.' But this goes on on a daily basis."

Whether any revitalization plan includes Snowden's properties, and whether the city or a developer actually pays her $2.2 million for them is uncertain.

Before the council picked a developer, the community debated whether to pick Beam or KWG to revitalize West Broadway, anchored on one end by the empty four-story Centre Court building.

Some residents preferred Beam's plan to renovate only the Centre Court and Washburne buildings.

But Snowden said she supports the larger housing and commercial concept of KWG, which would require all of the properties under option on both blocks.

"The only way to get rid of the problem (of loitering youths) is to do the full redevelopment," she said. "With the redevelopment of the Washburne and Centre Court (buildings) you still would have this problem that awaits people farther down West Broadway."

The city paid Snowden $12,000 for an option through next spring, and would pay another $12,000 to extend it 12 months beyond that.

Snowden's option means that the city has reached sales agreements with all but one property owner in a potential development area, from Willamette to Charnelton streets.

The sole holdout, Seattle-based Diamond Parking, owns the building that houses Bradford's Home Entertainment and an adjoining parking lot.

President John Diamond said he has received past option offers from the city, including one this week. Diamond manages a number of parking lots and parking garages in downtown Eugene.

"We are willing to talk" about a sale, he said. "Obviously, we want the downtown to be vibrant. It would obviously be better for us if the downtown was more robust."

The city can use the Broadway options to buy the properties, which range in price from $660,000 to $3.15 million apiece, or it can assign them to another party, such as a developer.

The option agreements don't require the city or a developer to buy any of the properties.

The options also can open the door for developers to try and negotiate their owns deals with the property owners.

The Snowden property is "an important corner" in the potential redevelopment area, said Denny Braud, senior development analyst with the city.

Corners "help activate the street," he said. "We actually designed Broadway to have wider sidewalks at the corners so you can can have outdoor seating in those areas."

Snowden's option price is $128 a square foot more than the $260 per square foot that the owner of Scan Design Store on Willamette Street agreed to sell his building for.

Some residents have criticized the city for agreeing to option prices that are well above the sale prices of comparable downtown properties.

The $2.2 million Snowden option is far higher, for example, than the $495,255 market value assigned the property by Lane County Assessor.

Yet Snowden said there are other factors to consider.

She would have to move her business, she noted. She also said that she is agreeing to sell in order to help the community reach a goal, and that her 28 years as a downtown business owner should count for something.

"If you count up all the costs, I think people can figure it out," she said.
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Title Annotation:Government; Betty Snowden agrees to sell her buildings for $2.2 million, a higher price than the other optioned properties
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:May 16, 2007
Words:1038
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