Astoria fish-packing building turns into dance hall

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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

ASTORIA — Locals call it a former staple of the fishing industry. Visitors call it a dilapidated eyesore. Soon in the Red Building, as it’s known around town, couples will share their first dance in a lofted banquet hall while visitors below contemplate aesthetics in an art gallery. In a coastal city known for its re-energized waterfront, another former fixture of the fishing industry will soon become a hip place for tourists and locals alike. 

Residents Ryan Davis and Shawn Helligso of Union Fish LLC bought the former Union Fisherman’s Cooperative Packing Co. maintenance shop from the Port of Astoria in 2004 for $120,000. They estimate remodeling will cost $1.7 million. Twenty-three rows of rotten pilings may have deterred some investors, but where others saw rotten wood, Davis and Helligso saw 17,000 square feet of potential.

Once the remodel is complete in March the building will house the Shoalwater restaurant, a brewery and Columbia Chocolates.

Davis also says they already have six weddings lined up for next summer. Couples have flown in from as far away as Washington, D.C., and New York to look at the building. Even though the loft space is covered in pigeon droppings, they were able to envision the finished product.

“When you go into it you really fall in love,” says Davis.

—  Colleen Moran

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