The historic Albers Mill Building is located directly across Naito Parkway from the One Waterfront Place site and immediately north of the McCormick Pier Condominiums. It was still being operated as a mill by Carnation when it was acquired by the Bill Naito Company in the mid-1980s.
The Company purchased the building in large part to shut down the mill operation which created a nuisance to McCormick Pier’s tenants. Several explosions and fires, grain dust, odor and vermin from the mill made renting the close-by apartments a challenge to say the least.
Several years later, the wheat industry in the Pacific Northwest began promoting the idea of a “wheat marketing center” to promote the worldwide sales of the soft white wheat being grown in the region. Senator Mark Hatfield secured a $6.5 million grant from the USDA Cooperative State Research Service for the creation of such a center in Portland. The problem for the promoters of the center was that the appropriation was a one-time grant and there would not be any additional federal appropriations to cover the operating expenses of the center.
In a competitive process, the Bill Naito Company proposed to rehabilitate Albers Mill into offices and laboratory space for the Wheat Marketing Center and related agricultural businesses, governmental agencies and not-for-profits. The Company would contribute the property and the Wheat Marketing Center would invest its grant funds. The Wheat Marketing Center’s share of the cash flow from the partnership would then be used to fund the ongoing operations of the Center.
The Naito proposal was selected and the project opened in 1989. In addition to the Wheat Marketing Center, the initial tenants included laboratories for the Federal Grain Inspection Service, OMIC, a Japanese agricultural inspection company, and the State of Oregon’s export certification laboratory. Related office tenants included the Oregon Wheat Commission, US Wheat Associates, and the Oregon Wine Advisory Board. Attracted by the river views and location, near suburban parking ratio, and convenient access to the entire metropolitan area, many non-agricultural office tenants also leased space in the building.
As originally proposed by the Naito Company, over the last 18 years the Wheat Marketing Center has used its annual partnership distributions to fund the ongoing operations of the Wheat Marketing Center.