Salem Urban Renewal Agency acquires downtown land, Saffron Supply Co. property

The Saffron Supply Co. building, which the city of Salem officially acquired March 29. The retailer has operated out of the building since 1935. (Troy Brynelson/Salem Reporter)

A future where the current Saffron Supply Co. and Union Gospel Mission buildings are rebuilt into mixed-use buildings is closer at hand, as the city of Salem’s Urban Renewal Agency has acquired four properties on the downtown block.

The agency on March 29 officially bought four downtown parcels for $2 million, according to property records. The city now owns 20,000 square feet of the block, which abuts Center, Commercial, Chemeketa and Front streets.

The agency ultimately hopes to see those properties turned into something new for downtown, such as a hotel, a grocery store or an office space, said property services manager Clint Dameron.

That could be years away, however. The block’s remaining parcels are still owned by Union Gospel Mission, whose property the city won’t acquire until after the mission moves into its new facility.

Representatives for the mission have said they hope to start construction on the new facility — a three-story, 55,000-square-foot building — by the end of the year. A capital campaign is underway to raise the needed funds. The mission hopes it would then move into the facility by the end of 2020.

“We’re really just in a holding pattern until UGM finalizes their fundraising and makes their move to their new spot,” Dameron said.

Don’t expect any clearance sales for the time being. Dameron said the agency is effectively the landlord for Saffron, Runaway Art and Craft Studio and Ki Ki B’s O’Hana Salon, who all expect to stay open.

“For the next year-and-a-half it’s business as usual,” Dameron said.

Rick Gassner, a third-generation owner of Saffron, said the sale is bittersweet. He said it will be hard for the family to stay goodbye to the physical store, which Saffron has occupied since 1935; but the sale gives the owners a chance to do something new if they chose.

“Everything’s open and on the table, so to speak,” he said.

Saffron sells hardware and supplies for electrical and plumbing work, and Gassner said its revenues come from both retail sales and wholesale accounts for other businesses. He said the business is challenged by the internet and big box retailers, but said the business has done “OK.”

Whether Saffron will end its business when it leaves the property remains unclear.

“All of that is up in the air,” Gassner said.

Have a tip? Contact reporter Troy Brynelson at 503-575-9930, [email protected] or @TroyWB.