2 bidders buy Harris Farm property for $5M

A prominent west Pasco farm will sprout homes after an unnamed developer bought the land at a recent auction. 

The 45-acre Harris Farm sold for $5 million at a Nov. 14 auction conducted by Musser Bros. Auctions.

The property at 11530 W. Court St. was sold in four parcels to two separate buyers.

A private buyer bought the pair of houses occupying about two acres that front almost 400 feet of Columbia River shoreline. A developer purchased the larger parcels, said Scott Musser, who conducted the auction.

The buyers won’t be identified until the deal closes. The deadline is Jan. 10.

The farm’s future as a residential neighborhood was all but guaranteed when the Harris family opted to sell the land they’ve owned since World War II.

Musser called the farm one of the most exciting properties he’d ever auctioned, thanks to strong interest from developers straining to keep up with demand for homes.

Pasco issued permits for 541 single-family homes in the first 11 months of 2019, 21 percent more than the same period in 2018. By comparison, Kennewick and Richland posted 8 percent and 16 percent increases, respectively, over the same period, according to the Home Builders Association of Tri-Cities.

The Harris family took over the former Wexler Ranch when the government requisitioned their original property on Paso’s east side to support the World War II effort. Today, Big Pasco Industrial Park sits on the former Diversity Dairy site.

Fred and Lura Harris moved their dairy, their livestock  and even their house down Court Street to what was then a remote corner of Pasco. Family legend holds that breakfast was on the table – unspilled – when the house arrived at its new location.

Fred and Lura eventually passed the farm to their son Wallace and his wife Lucille. Today, it is controlled by a trust that benefits their seven children and extended family, which includes grandchildren and great-grandchildren. 

As the family grew, the farm dwindled from the original 115 acres to the current 45.

The family decided to sell after receiving a private offer last year. That deal fell through but the heirs decided it was time to sell and simplify an estate that was getting more complicated with each successive generation.

The property has long been a target for developers responding to demand for homes. It is in unincorporated Franklin County, but is encircled by the city of Pasco and is ripe for annexation into city limits.

The property already is served by city utilities, key infrastructure as Pasco and Franklin County add new residents. 

The Washington Office of Financial Management projects Franklin County will grow to nearly 140,000 residents by 2050, a gain of more than 50,000.

That demand is reflected in the price the farm drew at auction. Musser said the $115,000-per-acre price is likely a local record for residential land.

Nearly two dozen bidders registered for the hour-long auction.

“It was an exciting day,” he said. 

A private buyer purchased the smaller home sites, which are upriver from the Interstate 182 bridge, on the Franklin County side of the river. Richland’s Columbia Point flanks the opposite shore.

Harris Farm could support nearly 700 homes at 15 per acre. The final count will likely be much lower. 

Fans of the popular Harris Farm stand won’t lose access to the hard-to-find peppers and other vegetables the family cultivates.

Lurene Harris Fleshman, the youngest of Wallace and Lucille’s children, will reopen the farm stand at her new home north of Pasco.

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