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News / Life / Clark County Life

Affordable housing projects dot 1-mile stretch of Fourth Plain

By Patty Hastings, Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
Published: March 22, 2017, 6:04am
10 Photos
Reach Community Development employee Rachael Meeks, right, and her husband, William Meeks, stand outside Isabella Court and look at a plot of land where Isabella Court II will be built. The couple live off Fourth Plain Boulevard and are interested to see how all of the planned developments will change the area.
Reach Community Development employee Rachael Meeks, right, and her husband, William Meeks, stand outside Isabella Court and look at a plot of land where Isabella Court II will be built. The couple live off Fourth Plain Boulevard and are interested to see how all of the planned developments will change the area. (Ariane Kunze/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

The Fourth Plain corridor could become a mecca of affordable housing over the next couple of years, with six subsidized apartment projects slated to be built along a 1-mile stretch of the central Vancouver boulevard.

Together, the projects would add 391 units of much-needed housing in a city struggling with limited vacancies and a lack of rentals affordable for low-income households. Additional housing would also help revitalize the corridor, which has commercial vacancies and is home to many cost-burdened renters and people in poverty.

It’s a strategic area to place housing because residents can access shopping, services and C-Tran’s new bus rapid transit system, The Vine.

“We really need housing all over Vancouver,” said Sue Kautz, who lives in the Meadow Homes neighborhood, where a 30-unit complex between Goodwill and Kyocera is planned. “If they can squeeze it in, I don’t have a problem with it.”

Kautz, however, is concerned about the true affordability of these projects. And, Tracey Weedman, who lives in Odgen, worries that the projects won’t provide sufficient parking, particularly the mixed-use project in his neighborhood. Still, he’s supportive.

“Where else is it going to go? It’s a great place,” he said. “It’s coming, so why not embrace it?”

While most of the projects in the pipeline are headed by nonprofits, the Fourth Plain corridor is part of a tax abatement zone that’s also attracted a couple of private developers.

Mark Maggiora is particularly excited about those investments. The community activist and executive director of the nonprofit Americans Building Community works on improving livability along Fourth Plain.

“We needed to be the change we wanted to see,” he said. “We’re sitting on this teeter-totter between gentrification and affordable housing.”

K West Apartments

The largest project is K West Apartments, a 192-unit complex to be built on the former KVAN radio site at 5500 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. Ground work is estimated to start in April or early May with construction completed in early 2018.

Portland developer Walter “Skip” Grodahl, doing business as DBG Properties LLC, said he’ll try to carefully take down the radio tower and reuse it in the complex’s landscape design. Grodahl is the same developer behind 13 West and 15 West, both affordable housing complexes in downtown Vancouver.

Like the other projects, K West will get a 12-year tax abatement from the city of Vancouver. Units would be available to people earning less than 60 percent of the area median income. For a family of four, that’s $44,340 or less. The project may also get tax credit and bond financing from the Washington State Housing Finance Commission.

The $30.6 million complex will be accessed via a flag lot and will include 247 parking spaces.

Projected rents are $764 for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom unit; $913 for two bedrooms, two bathrooms; and $1,040 for three bedrooms, two bathrooms.

“It seems there is a real need for affordable housing in the Bagley Downs neighborhood, and it is a great location there on Fourth Plain,” said Melora Banker with DBG Properties.

It’s close to public transportation, employment and schools, she said. Down the street is Bagley Community Park, the Jim Parsley Community Center and the adjacent Boys & Girls Clubs of Southwest Washington O.K. Clubhouse.

34th Street Apartments

The project to be completed soonest is 34th Street Apartments. Work on the 20-unit project began last week and will wrap up around the beginning of October. At 5756 N.E. 34th St., it’s closer to state Highway 500 than to Fourth Plain Boulevard. However, it’s still considered as being in the city’s Fourth Plain corridor tax abatement area.

“That was a significant factor in having the project financeable for us,” said Don Silvey.

Silvey, along with investor Dick Krueger, is working to produce 34th Street Apartments. While the two have worked together before on projects in Astoria, Ore., this is their first partnership, Silvey said.

Silvey’s company, Silco Commercial Construction, is the general contractor. Although Silvey has done affordable multifamily apartment projects in Portland, this is his first venture in Vancouver, making it a test case for possible future investments.

Though the project gets a 12-year tax exemption, 34th Street Apartments will be built using conventional financing. The total cost of the project is $3,336,000.

The complex will be leased and managed by Vancouver Housing Authority, which will prioritize families receiving Housing Choice vouchers, also known as Section 8 vouchers. While the projected rents for the three-bedroom, one-bathroom units will be $1,594, the vouchers will buy down the cost of those rents.

“The intent is to have the site highly utilized by homeless families with children that are referred to VHA for a voucher,” said Roy Johnson, the housing authority’s executive director, in an email.

There will be 13 townhouses and seven flats along with 30 parking spaces and a playground area.

Meriwether Place

Meriwether Place will primarily house people coming out of homelessness, specifically those receiving mental health services. The first floor will have office space for Lifeline Connections and Community Services Northwest, which provide mental health and substance abuse treatment.

The other two floors will have 30 studio apartments. Columbia Non-Profit Housing is heading the project at 6221 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd., which will be built on the back end of a land parcel owned by Vancouver Housing Authority.

“Fourth Plain is just such an excellent transit corridor,” said Leah Greenwood, interim executive director of Columbia Non-Profit Housing.

The nonprofit is paying for part of the $9.2 million project but also got funding from Clark County, the housing authority and the state Housing Finance Commission.

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Work should start around the beginning of June and be completed in spring of 2018, Greenwood said. Meriwether Place is named after Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

The Meadows

The nonprofit Second Step Housing aims to break ground on its 30-unit apartment project in May. The Meadows will have studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom units for low-income families.

The location at 3303 N.E. 78th Ave. is close to the bus line and across the street from Vancouver Plaza.

“Quality of life is really important,” said Debby Dover, executive director of Second Step Housing.

With an anticipated 11-month construction period, the project should be completed around this time next year. Units will be set aside for homeless households or households who have experienced homelessness, households with children, veterans and youth who earn 60 percent or less of the area’s median income.

Funding for the $8 million project comes from local government, private donations, the Washington State Housing Trust Fund and low-income housing tax credits.

Sea Mar Vancouver Affordable Housing Project

Next to Second Step’s project, Sea Mar Community Health Centers plans to construct a six-story, mixed-use building. It’s the health and human services provider’s first venture into building affordable housing in Clark County. Sea Mar has five offices in the county.

The first floor would have medical and dental offices, while the other five floors would offer 70 apartments, a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom units. Sea Mar’s existing office building at 7803 N.E. Fourth Plain Blvd. would be razed to make way for the new building.

There would be 94 parking spaces and Sea Mar expects some tenants to take advantage of the bus stop in front of the property.

Sea Mar aims to start work in May or June, said Jesus Sanchez, vice president for economic and governmental affairs. With a 14-month construction schedule, the building would be complete in September or October of 2018.

Funding for the project, estimated to cost between $15 million and $17 million, comes from low-income housing tax credit, Sea Mar’s equity and a bank loan.

Sea Mar built affordable housing in the Seattle area and Pasco, and saw Vancouver as another area experiencing a huge housing shortage. Affordable housing produces better health outcomes among low-income clients and lower health care costs, Sanchez said.

“One of the things that’s important for health care is a safe place to recuperate,” he said. It’s difficult to recuperate in a car or homeless encampment.

The apartments will be set aside for people earning 60 percent of the area median income or less. Tenants don’t have to be Sea Mar clients.

Isabella Court II

Isabella Court II is the second phase of a housing project at 3020 N.E. 62nd Ave. being built by Portland-based nonprofit Reach Community Development.

Like the first Isabella Court, Isabella Court II will be a four-story building with 46 one-bedroom apartments and three two-bedroom apartments. Forty-nine parking spaces will be offered, and a courtyard will join the two spaces. The difference is that some of the units in phase two will be fully accessible to seniors with disabilities, said Ben Sturtz, housing project manager at Reach.

The first Isabella Court is not fully leased. It’s set aside for people age 62 and older earning 60 percent of the area’s median income or less. Vancouver Housing Authority provides deeper subsidies on some units, making them available to people earning 30 percent of median income, which comes out to $17,600 for a two-person household.

The location is prime, Sturtz said, because of the amenities nearby, including grocery stores, medical clinics and Vancouver Mall.

“The transit alone, The Vine, is huge considering how many of our seniors may or may not have cars,” he said.

So far, the $13.2-million Isabella Court II has funding from the city, county and state Housing Finance Commission, but there are still funding gaps to fill.

“We’re excited to hit the ground running once we’re fully financed,” Sturtz said.

He hopes to start work at the end of 2017, but it’s unclear whether Reach will be able to meet that timeline.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith