Gheen Irrigation Works, which lost its historic Eugene, Ore., plant to a massive fire two years ago, is preparing to buy a piece of commercial real estate in Harrisburg, Ore., from the bankrupt Monaco Coach Corp.

The $2.2 million purchase requires approval of the bankruptcy judge overseeing the Monaco case. A hearing on the issue is scheduled today (Sept. 11) in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware, according to The Register-Guard, Eugene.

Gheen has signed a sales agreement to buy the property in Harrisburg, according to court documents. The deal includes five buildings, totaling 93,600 square feet, on 13.8 acres on the Willamette River, according to a listing of the property on the  website Loopnet.com. The original asking price was $2.9 million.

Gheen, established in 1933, sells irrigation equipment to farmers nationwide and in Canada and Mexico.

The company’s 40,000-square-foot plant went up in flames in April 2007, causing $5 million in damage and temporarily idling more than 65 employees. 

The company shifted its manufacturing work to a 15,000-square-foot building that survived the fire, and to outdoor production lines. In December 2007, Gheen bought the local manufacturing operations of the Lake Co., a California-based competitor in the irrigation equipment industry, including a 27,000-square-foot plant on Airport Road in Eugene.

 Since then, the company and its 85 employees have been operating at both locations, said Alan Thayer, a Eugene lawyer for Gheen.

 Gheen officials are waiting to see whether the court approves the Harrisburg deal before making firm plans for the property, he said. But company officials were attracted to the Harrisburg property because it would allow them to move the business to a location accessible to its current employees, Thayer said. The Harrisburg plant is about a 20 to 30 minute drive from Eugene-Springfield.

The site is big enough that Gheen could combine both operations in one location, Thayer said, though the timing of such a move is not yet known.

Harrisburg City Administrator Bruce Cleeton said the city is interested in attracting people and businesses to live and work in the community.

“With Monaco having vacated this building and property, to hear that Gheen is possibly interested in moving in there bodes very well for our community,” he said.

The Harrisburg sale is one piece in the winding down of Monaco Coach’s bankruptcy case. The Coburg RV manufacturer filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in March and in June sold its major assets — factories, inventory, brands and intellectual property — to Navistar International Corp. for $47 million, which created a new division called Monaco RV to build recreational vehicles.

All that was left over of the old Monaco Coach was seven properties in Indiana, Florida and Oregon, including the Harrisburg real estate.

In a court filing, trustee George Miller, charged with selling those properties, said Gheen emerged as the leading candidate to buy the property after several months of marketing by Evans Elder & Brown, a Eugene broker.

The Gheen offer appears superior to any other offers that the trustee might reasonably obtain, Miller said. Gheen officials said Gheen needs the deal to close by the end of this month, or it won’t buy the property, Miller said.

If the trustee were to put the property up for public auction, he would not be able to close by the buyer’s deadline, he said.