Once-golden destination resorts face uncertain future

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Articles - July 2010
Thursday, June 24, 2010

Oregon's once-golden destination resort industry is under fire and in flux and the future is anything but clear.

BY ROBIN DOUSSARD

 

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(TOP TO BOTTOM) PHOTO COURTESY SUNRIVER RESORT, OREGON BUSINESS PHOTO, PHOTO COURTESY BRASADA RANCH

The expansive sales office at Remington Ranch in Powell Butte sits empty and shuttered, mostly bare inside except for a large relief map of what the 2,080-acre destination resort entailed when it was approved in 2006 by Crook County: 800 homes, 400 overnight units, three golf courses, retail shops and several restaurants.

That was the plan before the housing market began its freefall in 2007 and Remington shut down sales the same year. It was before Crook County voters in 2008 voted for a moratorium on large destination resorts. And it was before Remington Ranch filed for bankruptcy this January.

But to Chris Pippin, the resort’s youthful Stanford-educated project manager and son of James Pippin, Remington’s managing member, the promise is still there. As he tours the scrubby high-desert landscape on a cold early-spring day, pointing out one golf course that is 75% complete, Pippin sees a future for Remington: Moneyed baby boomers will keep retiring, the Central Oregon sun will keep shining, and as luck would have it, Crook County “closed the door behind us.” That door was shut after four resorts had been approved: Brasada Ranch, Hidden Canyon, Remington Ranch and Crossing Trails, a combined 7,700 acres and 6,500 overnight and home units.

“In some ways it is a positive that we didn’t get too far down the road with a product we couldn’t sell,” Pippin says, referring to the 800 unbuilt homes. He’s looking for a big push in sales in spring 2011 once Remington comes out of bankruptcy reorganization.

Pippin may or may not be right about the future of his property, which Winchester Development paid $10 million to acquire. He could be the only upbeat developer left in Oregon. Maybe it is the required  optimism of any developer talking to the press these days, much less one whose dad has skin in the game as one of the property’s owners.

But he does have one thing right. The door has closed — if not forever than at least for a good while — on the large resorts with hotels, golf courses and homes that dot the state and blanket Central Oregon. It’s a once-coveted business that’s in trouble with regulators, residents, environmentalists and the development industry. It’s a business under fire and in flux, and one with an uncertain future.

Jerry Andres, president and CEO of Jeld-Wen Development, is blunt and unequivocal:

“Destination resorts are done in Oregon.”

 



 

Comments   

 
A. Kirk
0 #1 And history repeats itself...A. Kirk 2010-06-28 15:24:25
This reminds me of a TV show I saw on OPB not long ago where Christmas Valley was going to be all divided up into a beautiful resort/subdivis ion, etc. The developer flew people from California to the middle of the desert in planes and the people who bought places to live just about died the first winter because there was a horrible storm. It's practically a ghost town now. Sad how these things go... of course we're a little more modern and educated these days but not always. http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperiencearchive/reublong/book.php
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Susan Quatre
0 #2 Very accurate reporting of what's up with DRs in OregonSusan Quatre 2010-06-30 14:11:35
As a Deschutes County resident and a former county planning commissioner, I have seen the withering of the once valuable destination resort. I am very impressed with the breadth of opinion cited by Robin Doussard offered. Just one look at the map shown on page 3 or 4 shows clearly shows the perversion of what once was a great idea intended to bring visitors to Eastern Oregon. Greed took over and saturated the area with misuse of the laws intended to soften the blow of the loss of the timber industry.

No community can rely on one source of economic stability. Deschutes county and the cities within relied too heavily on the construction of new homes and "rural subdivisions" as its basis of growth. It had to come to an end. Had we instead looked to fostering eco-tourism and establishing laws that allowed for better use of the land that is often too poor for farming (events, weddings, RV parks), some degree of economic stability could be realized. I am in favor of the concept of small destination resorts but the last proposal I saw did not allow for RV parks. Recreation and eco-tourism should continue to be Eastern Oregon's goal: not rural subdivisions.

I searched and searched for the Christmas Valley report but could not find it. Any more specifics would be appreciated.

Thank you for the fine article.
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Brian
0 #3 Christmas ValleyBrian 2010-07-08 10:59:51
The Christmas Valley stuff was part of an OPB program on Reub Long. You can' watch it online here:

http://www.opb.org/programs/oregonexperiencearchive/reublong/player.php
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