Last week, the private owners of North Portland's Wapato Jail secured a permit from the city to demolish the never-used jail that the company, Harsch Investment Properties, purchased from Multnomah County in April. For those who've been following the Wapato saga, this would mean the potential plans to turn the empty facility into a massive homeless shelter are off the table.
This idea has not been supported by any of Portland's main homeless advocacy groups or nonprofits—and was nixed by Multnomah County and the City of Portland after researching the idea years ago. However, Harsch president Jordan Schnitzer purchased the building with this goal in mind, and brought in local developers Homer Williams and Don Mazziotti, who run an nonprofit called Oregon Harbor of Hope, to help see it to fruition.
Asked in an email if the building will be leveled within the next month, Harsch president Jordan Schnitzer told the Mercury: "No."
It could still be demolished shortly after.
On the demolition permit submitted to Portland's Bureau of Development Services, Harsch estimates the building's demolition costs to fall around $1 million. Schnitzer purchased the property for $5 million.
In an interview with the Mercury earlier this week, Mazziotti said Oregon Harbor of Hope had hired a consulting group to hash out what kinds of programs the facility could feasibly offer to people transitioning out of homelessness.
"We're still working with the owner to determine what the facility turns into," said Mazziotti. "But it's going to be costly."
In September, Schnitzer requested assistance from the city to help bankroll Wapato. Schnitzer said the empty jail had been costing him at least $50,000 a month to maintain. His ask was backed by Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, who was campaigning for a Portland City Council seat at the time, and former GOP gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler.
Neither the city nor the county has responded to this call—and both Smith and Buehler lost their Nov. 6 elections, leaving Wapato's future solely in the hands of Schnitzer.