Permit Filed To Demolish Never-Used North Portland Wapato Jail

By Ericka Cruz Guevarra (OPB)
Portland, Ore. Nov. 7, 2018 7:17 p.m.

The Wapato Jail won't become a homeless shelter after all.

In fact, Wapato Jail won't even be the Wapato Jail for much longer.


A demolition permit is in place for the never-opened Multnomah County jail, which was sold to private developer Jordan Schnitzer in April.

Wapato Jail in North Portland was completed in 2004. It has sat empty ever since.

Wapato Jail in North Portland was completed in 2004. It has sat empty ever since.

Kayo Lackey / OPB

A demolition building permit application through the city of Portland's Bureau of Development Services was signed by the property owner on Nov. 1, according to documents.

A final permit for a commercial inspection, in addition to an erosion and site control inspection is underway as of Nov. 2. Documents show applicants valued the cost of all equipment, materials, labor overhead and profit for the work at $1 million.


The permitting process to demolish the building — which has been referred to as an albatross that has strained county resources since it was completed in 2004 — began less than a week before Portland voters would decide between two city councilors who disagreed vehemently on what to do with the jail.

Voters ultimately chose Jo Ann Hardesty, who has been critical of calls for the jail to be converted into a homeless shelter.

"I thought this was a city of compassionate people, empathetic people, people who believed we can do better than jail cells for people who are houseless," Hardesty said in a speech at her Election Night party soon after her win Tuesday.

On the campaign trail, Hardesty's opponent, Multnomah County Commissioner Loretta Smith, said she wanted to turn the jail into a triage center for residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation, mental health support and job training programs.

Schnitzer, who backed Smith in her campaign for City Council, told Willamette Week in September that he'd demolish the building if funding to use the jail as a homeless shelter didn't materialize by Oct. 1.

The money never came.

Schnitzer faced mounting pressure from leaders including Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Oregon Republican gubernatorial candidate Knute Buehler to consider more pitches on what to do with the jail.

Schnitzer pays $50,000 a month to maintain the empty jail — a price he told The Oregonian/OregonLive he wasn't keen on paying forever.

This story will be updated.