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Feel the History, Imagine the Possibilities: Buchanan Cellers Opportunity Tour

Oct 20, 2017

Attendees tour the top floor of the historic Buchanan Cellers building
Attendees tour the top floor of the historic Buchanan Cellers building

While attending Linfield College, I can still remember the first time I turned the corner from Third Street to NE Irvine Street and was struck by the overwhelming and structurally interesting site of the Buchanan Cellers building. If you’re from the McMinnville community, perhaps you have a similar kind of memory. The first time you read the words “It Pays to Feed” on the side of the building and gazed at the large tower adorned with windows and fire escapes down the front and thought to yourself the amount of history, of stories, lurking in that building, I bet it could fill a novel.

Walking through the rustic doors of the Buchanan Cellers building creates a similar effect. Whether you are a regular and shop for all of your pet supplies at the feed store, or you’re a McMinnville resident who just yearns to know what is held in the rooms above, we at MEDP (McMinnville Economic Development Partnership) recognize the opportunity that such a building holds and partnered with owners, Jay Legard and Jerry Legard, and Marketing Director Mary Beth Branch, as well as the City of McMinnville Planning Director Heather Richards, and McMinnville Downtown Association Executive Director Rebecca Quandt to give others a chance to explore the history and imagine the possibilities.

Jay Legard speaks on the historic significance of the building
Jay Legard speaks on the historic significance of the building

Attendees of MEDP’s second Site Development Opportunity Tour were given the chance to not only tour the Buchanan Cellers building, but also to learn about the programs available to help with the restoration and repurposing of old buildings. The first speakers in the program were Mary Beth Branch and Jay Legard. Mary Beth took guests through some of the historical background of the 125 year old building, including its history as a flour mill, the many additions to the building, and what purpose the various machines served, while Jay spoke on the family’s vision for the future. Though they will not be selling the property, they plan to make the top four floors of the building available for businesses and organizations to create their own vision. The family wants to add a brewery to the ground floor level and are excited to collaborate with other visionaries to develop ideas and concepts for what the remaining floors could become.

Next, Rebecca Quandt, Executive Director of the McMinnville Downtown Association, spoke on state level grants and funds available for buildings with historic significance or located within McMinnville’s downtown boundaries. Rebecca focused on three programs:

  • The 20% Federal Historic Tax Credit: “It is available for the rehabilitation of historic, income producing buildings that are determined by the Secretary of the Interior, through the National Park Service, to be 'certified historic structures.'"
  • Oregon’s Special Tax Assessment: “The program specially assess a property’s assessed value for 10 years… 10% of the total real market value (RMV) of the property must be invested in the rehabilitation within the first five years of the program.”
  • Oregon Main Street Revitalization Grant: A grant that can fund up to 70% of a project’s cost. The remaining 30% must be matched. The grant was developed to help revitalize main streets throughout Oregon and was recently utilized by Allegory Brewing in McMinnville.

Guests were given the chance to take a virtual tour of the building with VR headsets.
Guests were given the chance to take a virtual tour of the building with VR headsets.

Heather Richards, Planning Director for the City of McMinnville, then spoke on local resources available for projects in McMinnville’s Urban Renewal Zone. This included three programs:

  • Free Design Assistance: “This program offers 10 free hours of architectural/conceptual/design services. The city can provide a list of pre-approved architectural firms upon request.”
  • Facade Improvement Grant: This is a matching grant program that helps businesses improve the aesthetic appearance of exterior facades.
  • Development Loan/Grant: Loans within McMinnville’s urban renewal zone are available up to 20% of construction costs and cannot exceed $100,000. There are discretionary terms.

After presentations, guests were led on tours by Jerry Legard, who purchased the building and the flour mill in 1979, the foremost expert about the machinery and building. As we walked past each piece of equipment Jerry, who had personally seen it utilized in the past, became clearly excited to see what the space could become. With five floors, it is the tallest building in McMinnville and holds the last remaining intact flour-mill in the county. More than that, the building represents something uniquely McMinnville. As we all recognize and honor our agriculturally driven past, McMinnville is also set and ready to look towards the future. We honor what came before us, want to preserve buildings and the history within them, while also seeking opportunities to create further economic vitality within our community.

With the construction and improvements on Alpine Avenue, we know that the Granary District and the surrounding area are primed and ready for development. Watch our video below to see some of the construction happening along Alpine and imagine the possibilities for what the area can become in the future:

For more information regarding…

The Buchanan Cellers Building
Mary Beth Branch, Director of Marketing and Events,

Adaptive Reuse Funds
McMinnville Downtown Association,

Urban Renewal Funds
Heather Richards, Planning Director,

Urban Renewal Drone Video
Clark Hazlett,


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