Property At Evergreen Aviation And Space Museum Faces Foreclosure Auction

Dated: October 15 2015

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Property at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum and the neighboring Wings & Waves Waterpark in McMinnville is scheduled to be offered for sale in a foreclosure auction on the Yamhill County Courthouse steps, a Yamhill County Sheriff's Office spokesman says.

The sheriff's sale is scheduled for Nov. 30, said Capt. Brandon Bowdle. The Yamhill Valley News-Register first reported on the proceedings.

The space museum and the waterpark are included in the foreclosure, but not the aviation museum, said Melissa Grace, the museum's director of marketing, public relations and events.

The foreclosure resulted from a $1.9 million debt the property's owner, the Michael King Smith Foundation, owes to Portland builder Hoffman Construction. Hoffman filed a foreclosure suit against the foundation last year and won.

But Ann Witsil, interim executive director of the museum, doesn't believe the museum is actually in any danger. She thinks the foundation will repay or settle its debt before the auction. 

"We are operating full bore," she said. "We have record numbers of guests and students coming here every day."

Witsil added that the museum expects new exhibits to arrive at the end of the month.

There is surrounding property, she said, the foundation could sell to come up with the money, if necessary.

The announcement of the sheriff's sale is likely only a way for Hoffman to apply pressure on the foundation during the negotiations, Witsil believes.

"I think Hoffman has been patient," Witsil said. "And they're ready to see that there's some honoring of the obligation that the foundation owes them. ... I don't think the sheriff's sale will go forward."

The foreclosure is the latest in a string of hard times for the McMinnville-based Evergreen operation. Founded by the late Delford Smith, the nonprofit museum was the public face of Smith's for-profit aviation company, Evergreen International Aviation. That company provided aviation services to the U.S. government, among other clients.

In 2013, the Oregon Department of Justice began investigating whether funds were improperly mixed between the nonprofit and for-profit operations.

The investigation was rendered moot by the collapse of Evergreen International. But state Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum still asked the Internal Revenue Servicein 2014 to examine whether the museum and waterpark were entitled to their tax exemptions.

The museum was left to deal with the fact that the owners of much its real estate and exhibits were saddled with debt. Earlier this year, the museum reached a deal to buy some of the assets previously owned by Evergreen Vintage Aircraft, an affiliated for-profit company that had filed for bankruptcy.

The museum received a new 20-year lease on certain buildings and 16 of its planes as part of the deal, The Oregonian/OregonLive's Elliot Njus reported in May.

The museum also reached a settlement in July with the Aero Club of Southern California, which sought a final payment on the museum's centerpiece exhibit, the Spruce Goose wooden airplane. The Spruce Goose is in no danger of being taken or moved, Grace said.

A Michael King Smith Foundation representative did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.


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Mark Ross

For Mark Ross, founder of Ross NW Real Estate and professional real estate broker, real estate has always been the career of choice. During his 30 years in the industry, Mark has gained experience in ....

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