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