March 13, 2012 in Business, City

Old Kaiser Mead smelter property sells for $1.5 million

By The Spokesman-Review
 

This 1995 file photo shows an aluminum-making pot at the former Kaiser Aluminum smelter in mead.
(Full-size photo)

A California company that acquires old industrial locations has paid $1.5 million for the former Kaiser Mead smelter operation.

New Mill Capital, LLC, plans to convert some of the existing buildings on the 183-acre North Spokane site into usable industrial locations for new tenants, said Gregory Schain, executive VP of New Mill. Other buildings will have to be gutted and taken down, he added.

New Mill is a subsidiary of Industrial Realty Group LLC, a California company that buys and develops excess commercial and industrial properties across the country.

Its website said the firm has a portfolio of over 80 million square feet within 70 projects across the United States.

The plan is to turn the site into a north Spokane industrial park, Schain added. “It has a North-South freeway nearby. It has power and water … it has the needed infrastructure there to make this a world-class location,” Schain said.

Kaiser shut down the plant in 2000 after producing aluminum for more than 50 years, at times employing as many as 1,200 workers there.

In 2004, St. Louis-based Commercial Development Company Inc. (CDC) bought the land for $7.4 million and sold off all the plant’s industrial metals and much of its industrial equipment. CDC has been trying to sell the property for the past seven years.

“In that time I’ve had at least 10 serious offers from would-be buyers, and this one finally closed,” said NAI Black commercial broker Earl Engle. Engle represented CDC in the sale.

The sale does not affect Kaiser’s other operation, the Trentwood rolling mill that continues to produce aluminum sheet and plate for use in airplanes, auto parts, machinery and construction goods.

Schain said one goal is to decide which of the remaining 262 buildings on the site will be refurbished and which will be torn down. Those buildings have a total of 1.6 million square feet of space. Some of the buildings are immense industrial structures that contained the 16 potlines and support services. Those are unlikely to remain, said Schain.

The environmental issues of the site have been part of the reason the property has not been sold until now, said Schain.

Many of the buildings contain asbestos affixed to galvanized walls. Those structures will need to be carefully torn down, and their materials hauled off to a landfill in Arlington, Ore.

“That’s something we know how to do,” Schain said. “We have experience with this kind of material across the country.”

Another 400 acres on the north side of the Kaiser site were not included in the sale and were not sold when CDC bought the property in 2004.

Also not part of the sale to New Mill Capital are 38 adjoining acres that have been designated a Superfund site and are under the control of a state-appointed trustee.

Schain added that the plans for reuse and development of the Kaiser property are in the early stage. Following the initial efforts to clear and remove some of the buildings, New Mill will develop a “conceptual plan” to define which segments will be set aside for new buildings and which older buildings will be restored and rehabbed, he said.

Long term, New Mill might consider selling off some of the 183 acres. It would not, however, piece out smaller parcels; “We wouldn’t be likely to respond if someone came to us and wanted to just buy three acres,” Schain said.


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