Every time I pass through Independence, which is not that often, I am struck by the sight of the concrete skeleton of a three-story building right in the middle of town. It is, as I discovered on the city of Independence’s website and elsewhere on the Internet, a sad reminder of where dreams of “sustainability” can lead.
Symbolically named Independence Station, the project began about 10 years ago, the plan of a developer who wanted to build a showcase of sustainability, heated and cooled by solar energy, powered by biofuels, and aiming for the world’s highest score in the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.
In an interview with National Real Estate Investor, developer Steven Ribeiro said in 2006 that the building, which would have shops and offices as well as 15 apartments selling for $250,000 and up, was about 35 percent complete. In the summer the place would be powered by 130 kilowatts of solar power. For winters, he envisioned generators powered by cooking oil donated by local restaurants. To supplement that energy source, he was counting on sunflower oil and was looking for someone to grow 200 acres of sunflowers.
In June 2008, the law firm Stoel Rives, noting its expertise in matters including green building and renewable energy, announced it had helped arrange a $14.5 million financing deal for what it called “the greenest building in the world.”
In February 2012, the Polk County Itemizer Observer reported on efforts to settle a lawsuit in federal court in Los Angeles. The contractor on Independence Station had sued the developer and 20 others, alleging they had defaulted on a $14.5 million loan.
In March 2013, Independence City Manager David Clyne reported that the city had reached an agreement with the owner of Independence Station, the Granada Trust, over a debt to the city. (This seems to have been systems development charges.) The deal was that the city would not foreclose on the debt if work on the project was restarted within12 months. (See below for an update from Clyne.)
Independence Station has a nice-looking website, which says, “Aldeia LLC is proud to present its award-winning flagship project… Independence Station is an extraordinary, ultra-high performance, energy efficient, 57,000 square foot , mixed use medical facility that is powered primarily by the sun and the austere use of clean-burning North American natural gas.” (No more mention of cooking oil and sunflowers.) “Selected health and fitness related businesses will have the unique opportunity to experience this one-of-a-kind, healthy building of the future. Sign up early here …”
The site has a helpful link to project updates. The latest one is from July 2013: “The Independence Station team is proud to announce several new retailers are presently in final negotiations for inclusion in Independence Station… Stay tuned for a major announcement in the coming weeks.”
A few years ago, the town of Independence dressed up its main street and built a beautiful park along the Willamette River complete with an amphitheater and an impressive fountain on the side facing town. A few blocks away, though, Independence Station looks like an unfinished relic from another time. (hh)