BUILDING SALEM: Former food processing facility comes down, paving way for sale of prime development spot

Editor’s note: Building Salem is a twice-monthly feature from Salem Reporter intended to highlight planned building projects around the city. Is there a building going up or demolition underway you’re curious about? Let us know by emailing [email protected].

Name: Former RainSweet food processing facility

Project type: Demolition and new development

Location: 740 Bassett St. N.W. (West Salem)

The need: The 5.3-acre parcel represents one of the largest areas of land in west Salem open to both commercial and housing development and sits just off Wallace Road. “West Salem is seeking an identity and this is a property that can help,” said Nick Williams, broker with SVN Commercial Advisors, which is representing the seller.

Description: The site of a former food processing facility is slated for a redevelopment project that could transform west Salem’s commercial hub, but there’s no set plan yet for the property.

Williams said the demolition work on the property has fueled speculation about a variety of projects, but his firm and the owner are still recruiting potential developers and working on site improvements.

Demolition underway on the former RainSweet food processing facility in West Salem at 740 Bassett St. N.W. in March 2024. The site is currently for sale and will likely be redeveloped. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

The property is listed for sale for $6.9 million. It’s part of an area recently rezoned during a 2022 overhaul of the city’s comprehensive plan. Formerly an industrial and commercial area, the property is now zoned for mixed use, which means it can accommodate apartments, outpatient medical clinics and retail space, among other uses.

Williams said the site is big enough for multiple buildings or uses.

“There’s not a piece of land that’s in west Salem that’s this size and in this location,” he said. The property is along a transit line in a high-traffic area and has utilities ready.

The facility had processed Oregon-grown food for decades, part of a cluster of former canneries and other food processing plants that once defined West Salem as an independent city.

The building featured briefly in the background of a shot in the 1975 feature “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” which filmed on location in Salem.

A shot from “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” shows the south side of the former RainSweet food processing facility in the background. At the time of filming, the building was occupied by Oregon Turkey Growers, said Mark May, RainSweet’s CEO. The fruit processing company bought the building in 1994.

The plant was owned for decades by Oregon Turkey Growers, a co-op of local growers, but the operation went belly up following a 1991 recall. RainSweet bought the building from the bank and converted it to process local fruits and vegetables, including marionberries, said Mark May, the company’s CEO.

RainSweet was founded by berry growers in 1982 and acquired by Gresham-based Scenic Fruit Company in 2022, according to a company announcement. Scenic Fruit operates locally out of a facility at 1460 Sunnyview Rd. in northeast Salem.

RainSweet still owns the land its former facility sat on. Demolition work on the building is now nearly complete, and the owners are working on other improvements to make the site ready to build. The owners are seeking a developer who has the vision and ability to build a major project.

“It’s really a longer-term vision we’re trying to help west Salem realize,” Williams said. “This is kind of the front step of west Salem.”

Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.