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A logging town reinvents itself

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Friday, December 01, 2006

SWEET HOME — Some people want to vacation in the best of locations. Others, like developer Phil Ordway, look for the next best — those up-and-coming places that have yet to be discovered. And he thinks he’s found the next great Oregon getaway in a most unlikely spot.

Ordway’s bet on the next second-home hotspot is the Willamette Valley logging town of Sweet Home. This little slice of rural Oregon, about 100 miles west of Bend and 100 miles south of Portland, is about to become home to the Santiam River Club, a 300-acre planned community, on the site of a former timber mill.

The site offers 450 home lots of one- to 1½ acres, which are available for $205,000-$275,000 depending on their location. The choices: fir forest, wetland or on a pond. Ordway expects most buyers will be baby boomers looking for a second home in Oregon — the ones who don’t crave the sunshine of the high desert or the shoreline of the coast.

The club will feature outdoor recreation attractions including a lodge with an upscale restaurant and library, an outfitters cabin, an adventure camp, and a spa. The extras, none of which currently exists in Sweet Home, will help the cause of attracting potential buyers.

Most noteworthy is that the Santiam River Club is being cast as a nature preserve with some “carefully introduced humans.” According to Ordway, before anyone is allowed to build on their lot, proposed homes must be reviewed and found to meet Energy Star requirements for energy efficiency. In addition, 169 acres will be preserved as a wildlife sanctuary for threatened species such as the black-tailed deer.

Kevin Strong, vice president of the Sweet Home Economic Development Group, is optimistic that the development will have a positive effect on Sweet Home’s economy. “The proposed development does a great job of playing to Sweet Home’s strengths. We are no longer just a mill town,” he says.

Only time will tell if the Santiam River Club will be successful in competing with its drier neighbors to the east such as Sunriver. But the development is both Ordway’s gamble and his dream. He’s building “a fun, relaxed, sustainable place for residents, kids and grandkids.” Will they come?

— Colleen Moran


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