Tower’s shadow – Old Wilco property to be cleaned, cleared, sold

March 2022 Posted in News, Other

By Stephen Floyd

Residents in Mount Angel will soon see cleanup activity at the site of the Old Wilco Building after fire investigators concluded the cause of the blaze that destroyed the structure last October could not be determined.

Barbara Hettwer, sister of late property owner Bob Bodkin, said the initial stage of cleanup has begun with testing for potential asbestos and other hazardous chemicals. The next stages will include HazMat cleanup, then general cleanup, after which the empty lot will be put on the market.

Hettwer said these stages may take a long time, but progress will be steady.

“We’re moving ahead as fast as we can,” she said. “It’s all little steps.”

Aftermath of the fire in Mount Angel in October

Large fire, long investigation

The Old Wilco Building, at 190 S. Main St., suddenly caught fire Oct. 9, 2021, prompting a four-alarm callout that saw more than 100 firefighters respond from agencies in Mount Angel, Silverton, Woodburn, Hubbard, Monitor, St. Paul and Marion County Fire District 1. No injuries were reported, however, the building was a total loss and four businesses on the property were displaced.

An investigation into the fire took four months, during which time cleanup was not allowed in order to preserve the integrity of the site. Hettwer said investigators confirmed witness accounts that the fire began in the tower, but they were unable to determine what caused the blaze.

Proactive developer passes away

While the investigation was underway, Bodkin made plans to build a mixed-use facility after cleanup, with commercial storefronts on the first floor and residential units above. He sent a letter to the Mount Angel City Council Jan. 5 asking their views on rezoning the property from industrial to mixed-use residential/commercial, with plans for a three-story, 45,000 square foot building.

However, Bodkin died suddenly Jan. 10 and control of the property passed to the Robert Bodkin Family Trust, of which Hettwer is co-trustee. She said, though Bodkin shared details of his plans to redevelop the site, neither herself nor the other trustee, Bodkin’s nephew, are property developers. Their intent is to sell the site after cleanup. 

Bodkin was 74 when he died at his home outside Silverton. He had moved to the area from Southern California. He was remembered as a kind and generous man, a supporter of his community, and a devoted Catholic.

Businesses resettle

Meanwhile, most of Bodkin’s former tenants have found new locations, though some moved out of Mount Angel.

Hiddenbed of Oregon, which sells Murphy beds and similar furniture, has relocated its showroom to 165 N. Main St. in Mount Angel, though there they no longer have space to manufacture beds as they had done before. 

KP Harvest Time, which sells and distributes hazelnut shell mulch, relocated to The Dalles, while Timber Stoves, which manufactures wood-pellet porch heaters, is now based out of Brooks.

The Blackbird Granary, an antique mall featuring about 50 local vendors, has not been re-established. The business and its vendors suffered total losses, and most vendors were uninsured.

The Old Wilco Building was once the headquarters of the Wilco Farm Coop and an historic reminder of the area’s agricultural roots. It was sold to Bodkin in 2004, and he began renting parts of the multi-structure complex to businesses. 

The original wood-frame warehouse was owned by Schmalt and Sons and served as a distribution point for agricultural, domestic and building supplies in the early part of the 20th Century.

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